On Spinoza

Today we pause in our work on continuous variation to return temporarily, for one session, to the history of philosophy, on a very precise point. It's like a break, at the request of some of you. This very precise point concerns the following: what is an idea and what is an affect in Spinoza? Idea and affect in Spinoza. During March, at the request of some of you, we will also take a break to consider the problem of synthesis and the problem of time in Kant.
For me, this produces a curious effect of returning to history. I would almost like for you to take this bit of history of philosophy as a history tout court. After all, a philosopher is not only someone who invents notions, he also perhaps invents ways of perceiving. I will proceed largely by enumeration. I will begin chiefly with terminological remarks. I assume that the room is relatively mixed. I believe that, of all the philosophers of whom the history of philosophy speaks to us, Spinoza is in a quite exceptional situation: the way he touches those who enter into his books has no equivalent.
It matters little whether you've read him or not, for I'm telling a story. I begin with some terminological cautions. In Spinoza's principal book, which is called the Ethics and which is written in Latin, one finds two words: AFFECTIO and AFFECTUS. Some translators, quite strangely, translate both in the same way. This is a disaster. They translate both terms, affectio and affectus, by “affection.” I call this a disaster because when a philosopher employs two words, it's because in principle he has reason to, especially when French easily gives us two words which correspond rigorously to affectio and affectus, that is “affection” for affectio and “affect” for affectus. Some translators translate affectio as “affection” and affectus as “feeling” [sentiment], which is better than translating both by the same word, but I don't see the necessity of having recourse to the word “feeling” since French offers the word “affect.” Thus when I use the word “affect” it refers to Spinoza's affectus, and when I say the word “affection,” it refers to affectio.
First point: what is an idea? What must an idea be, in order for us to comprehend even Spinoza's simplest propositions? On this point Spinoza is not original, he is going to take the word “idea” in the sense in which everyone has always taken it. What is called an idea, in the sense in which everyone has always taken it in the history of philosophy, is a mode of thought which represents something. A representational mode of thought. For example, the idea of a triangle is the mode of thought which represents the triangle. Still from the terminological point of view, it's quite useful to know that since the Middle Ages this aspect of the idea has been termed its “objective reality.” In texts from the 17th century and earlier, when you encounter the objective reality of the idea this always means the idea envisioned as representation of something. The idea, insofar as it represents something, is said to have an objective reality. It is the relation of the idea to the object that it represents.
Thus we start from a quite simple thing: the idea is a mode of thought defined by its representational character. This already gives us a first point of departure for distinguishing idea and affect (affectus) because we call affect any mode of thought which doesn't represent anything. So what does that mean? Take at random what anybody would call affect or feeling, a hope for example, a pain, a love, this is not representational. There is an idea of the loved thing, to be sure, there is an idea of something hoped for, but hope as such or love as such represents nothing, strictly nothing.
Every mode of thought insofar as it is non-representational will be termed affect. A volition, a will implies, in all rigor, that I will something, and what I will is an object of representation, what I will is given in an idea, but the fact of willing is not an idea, it is an affect because it is a non-representational mode of thought. That works, it's not complicated.
He thereby immediately infers a primacy of the idea over the affect, and this is common to the whole 17th century, so we have not yet entered into what is specific to Spinoza. There is a primacy of the idea over the affect for the very simple reason that in order to love it's necessary to have an idea, however confused it may be, however indeterminate it may be, of what is loved.
In order to will it's necessary to have an idea, however confused or indeterminate it may be, of what is willed. Even when one says “I don't know what I feel,” there is a representation, confused though it may be, of the object. There is a confused idea. There is thus a primacy, which is chronological and logical at the same time, of the idea over the affect, which is to say a primacy of representational modes of thought over non-representational modes. It would be a completely disastrous reversal of meaning if the reader were to transform this logical primacy through reduction. That the affect presupposes the idea above all does not mean that it is reduced to the idea or to a combination of ideas. We must proceed from the following point, that idea and affect are two kinds of modes of thought which differ in nature, which are irreducible to one another but simply taken up in a relation such that affect presupposes an idea, however confused it may be. This is the first point.
Now a second, less superficial way of presenting the idea-affect relation. You will recall that we started from a very simple characteristic of the idea. The idea is a thought insofar as it is representational, a mode of thought insofar as it is representational, and in this sense we will speak of the objective reality of an idea. Yet an idea not only has an objective reality but, following the hallowed terminology, it also has a formal reality. What is the formal reality of the idea? Once we say that the objective reality is the reality of the idea insofar as it represents something, the formal reality of the idea, shall we say, is—but then in one blow it becomes much more complicated and much more interesting—the reality of the idea insofar as it is itself something.
The objective reality of the idea of the triangle is the idea of the triangle insofar as it represents the triangle as thing, but the idea of the triangle is itself something; moreover, insofar as it is something, I can form an idea of this thing, I can always form an idea of the idea. I would say therefore that not only is every idea something—to say that every idea is the idea of something is to say that every idea has an objective reality, it represents something—but I would also say that the idea has a formal reality since it is itself something insofar as it is an idea.
What does this mean, the formal reality of the idea? We will not be able to continue very much further at this level, we are going to have to put this aside. It's necessary just to add that this formal reality of the idea will be what Spinoza very often terms a certain degree of reality or of perfection that the idea has as such. As such, every idea has a certain degree of reality or perfection. Undoubtedly this degree of reality or perfection is connected to the object that it represents, but it is not to be confused with the object: that is, the formal reality of the idea, the thing the idea is or the degree of reality or perfection it possesses in itself, is its intrinsic character. The objective reality of the idea, that is the relation of the idea to the object it represents, is its extrinsic character; the extrinsic character and the intrinsic character may be fundamentally connected, but they are not the same thing. The idea of God and the idea of a frog have different objective realities, that is they do not represent the same thing, but at the same time they do not have the same intrinsic reality, they do not have the same formal reality, that is one of them—you sense this quite well—has a degree of reality infinitely greater than the other's. The idea of God has a formal reality, a degree of reality or intrinsic perfection infinitely greater than the idea of a frog, which is the idea of a finite thing.
If you understood that, you've understood almost everything. There is thus a formal reality of the idea, which is to say the idea is something in itself; this formal reality is its intrinsic character and is the degree of reality or perfection that it envelopes in itself.
Just now, when I defined the idea by its objective reality or its representational character, I opposed the idea immediately to the affect by saying that affect is precisely a mode of thought which has no representational character. Now I come to define the idea by the following: every idea is something, not only is it the idea of something but it is something, that is to say it has a degree of reality which is proper to it. Thus at this second level I must discover a fundamental difference between idea and affect. What happens concretely in life? Two things happen... And here, it's curious how Spinoza employs a geometrical method, you know that the Ethics is presented in the form of propositions, demonstrations, etc.... and yet at the same time, the more mathematical it is, the more extraordinarily concrete.
Everything I am saying and all these commentaries on the idea and the affect refer to books two and three of the Ethics. In books two and three, he makes for us a kind of geometrical portrait of our life which, it seems to me, is very very convincing. This geometrical portrait consists largely in telling us that our ideas succeed each other constantly: one idea chases another, one idea replaces another idea for example, in an instant. A perception is a certain type of idea, we will see why shortly. Just now I had my head turned there, I saw that corner of the room, I turn...it's another idea; I walk down a street where I know people, I say “Hello Pierre” and then I turn and say “Hello Paul.” Or else things change: I look at the sun, and the sun little by little disappears and I find myself in the dark of night; it is thus a series of successions, of coexistences of ideas, successions of ideas. But what also happens? Our everyday life is not made up solely of ideas which succeed each other. Spinoza employs the term “automaton”: we are, he says, spiritual automata, that is to say it is less we who have the ideas than the ideas which are affirmed in us. What also happens, apart from this succession of ideas? There is something else, that is, something in me never ceases to vary. There is a regime of variation which is not the same thing as the succession of ideas themselves.
“Variations” must serve us for what we want to do, the trouble is that he doesn't employ the word... What is this variation? I take up my example again: in the street I run into Pierre, for whom I feel hostility, I pass by and say hello to Pierre, or perhaps I am afraid of him, and then I suddenly see Paul who is very very charming, and I say hello to Paul reassuredly and contentedly. Well. What is it? In part, succession of two ideas, the idea of Pierre and the idea of Paul; but there is something else: a variation also operates in me—on this point, Spinoza's words are very precise and I cite them: (variation) of my force of existing, or another word he employs as a synonym: vis existendi, the force of existing, or potentia agendi, the power [puissance] of acting, and these variations are perpetual.
I would say that for Spinoza there is a continuous variation—and this is what it means to exist—of the force of existing or of the power of acting.
How is this linked to my stupid example, which comes, however, from Spinoza, “Hello Pierre, hello Paul”? When I see Pierre who displeases me, an idea, the idea of Pierre, is given to me; when I see Paul who pleases me, the idea of Paul is given to me. Each one of these ideas in relation to me has a certain degree of reality or perfection. I would say that the idea of Paul, in relation to me, has more intrinsic perfection than the idea of Pierre since the idea of Paul contents me and the idea of Pierre upsets me. When the idea of Paul succeeds the idea of Pierre, it is agreeable to say that my force of existing or my power of acting is increased or improved; when, on the contrary, the situation is reversed, when after having seen someone who made me joyful I then see someone who makes me sad, I say that my power of acting is inhibited or obstructed. At this level we don't even know anymore if we are still working within terminological conventions or if we are already moving into something much more concrete.
I would say that, to the extent that ideas succeed each other in us, each one having its own degree of perfection, its degree of reality or intrinsic perfection, the one who has these ideas, in this case me, never stops passing from one degree of perfection to another. In other words there is a continuous variation in the form of an increase-diminution-increase-diminution of the power of acting or the force of existing of someone according to the ideas which s/he has. Feel how beauty shines through this difficult exercise. This representation of existence already isn't bad, it really is existence in the street, it's necessary to imagine Spinoza strolling about, and he truly lives existence as this kind of continuous variation: to the extent that an idea replaces another, I never cease to pass from one degree of perfection to another, however miniscule the difference, and this kind of melodic line of continuous variation will define affect (affectus) in its correlation with ideas and at the same time in its difference in nature from ideas. We account for this difference in nature and this correlation. It's up to you to say whether it agrees with you or not. We have got an entirely more solid definition of affectus; affectus in Spinoza is variation (he is speaking through my mouth; he didn't say it this way because he died too young...), continuous variation of the force of existing, insofar as this variation is determined by the ideas one has.
Consequently, in a very important text at the end of book three, which bears the title “general definition of affectus,” Spinoza tells us: above all do not believe that affectus as I conceive it depends upon a comparison of ideas. He means that the idea indeed has to be primary in relation to the affect, the idea and the affect are two things which differ in nature, the affect is not reducible to an intellectual comparison of ideas, affect is constituted by the lived transition or lived passage from one degree of perfection to another, insofar as this passage is determined by ideas; but in itself it does not consist in an idea, but rather constitutes affect. When I pass from the idea of Pierre to the idea of Paul, I say that my power of acting is increased; when I pass from the idea of Paul to the idea of Pierre, I say that my power of acting is diminished. Which comes down to saying that when I see Pierre, I am affected with sadness; when I see Paul, I am affected with joy. And on this melodic line of continuous variation constituted by the affect, Spinoza will assign two poles: joy-sadness, which for him will be the fundamental passions. Sadness will be any passion whatsoever which involves a diminution of my power of acting, and joy will be any passion involving an increase in my power of acting. This conception will allow Spinoza to become aware, for example, of a quite fundamental moral and political problem which will be his way of posing the political problem to himself: how does it happen that people who have power [pouvoir], in whatever domain, need to affect us in a sad way? The sad passions as necessary. Inspiring sad passions is necessary for the exercise of power. And Spinoza says, in the Theological-Political Treatise, that this is a profound point of connection between the despot and the priest—they both need the sadness of their subjects. Here you understand well that he does not take sadness in a vague sense, he takes sadness in the rigorous sense he knew to give it: sadness is the affect insofar as it involves the diminution of my power of acting.
When I said, in my first attempt to differentiate idea and affect (that the idea is the mode of thought which represents nothing [?]), that the affect is the mode of thought which represents nothing, I said in technical terms that this is not only a simple nominal definition, nor, if you prefer, only an external or extrinsic one.
In the second attempt, when I say on the other hand that the idea is that which has in itself an intrinsic reality, and the affect is the continuous variation or passage from one degree of reality to another or from one degree of perfection to another, we are no longer in the domain of so-called nominal definitions, here we already acquire a real definition, that is a definition which, at the same time as it defines the thing, also shows the very possibility of this thing. What is important is that you see how, according to Spinoza, we are fabricated as such spiritual automata. As such spiritual automata, within us there is the whole time of ideas which succeed one another, and in according with this succession of ideas, our power of acting or force of existing is increased or diminished in a continuous manner, on a continuous line, and this is what we call affectus, it's what we call existing.
Affectus is thus the continuous variation of someone's force of existing, insofar as this variation is determined by the ideas that s/he has. But once again, “determined” does not mean that the variation is reducible to the ideas that one has, since the idea that I have does not account for its consequence, that is the fact that it increases my power of acting or on the contrary diminishes it in relation to the idea that I had at the time, and it's not a question of comparison, it's a question of a kind of slide, a fall or rise in the power of acting. No problem, no question.
For Spinoza there will be three sorts of ideas. For the moment, we will no longer speak of affectus, of affect, since in effect the affect is determined by the ideas which one has, it's not reducible to the ideas one has, it is determined by the ideas one has; thus what is essential is to see which ideas are the ones which determine the affects, always keeping in mind the fact that the affect is not reducible to the ideas one has, it's absolutely irreducible. It's of another order. The three kinds of ideas that Spinoza distinguishes are affection (affectio) ideas; we'll see that affectio, as opposed to affectus, is a certain kind of idea. There would thus have been in the first place affectio ideas, secondly we arrive at the ideas that Spinoza calls notions, and thirdly, for a small number of us because it's very difficult, we come to have essence ideas. Before everything else there are these three sorts of ideas.
What is an affection (affectio)? I see your faces literally fall... yet this is all rather amusing. At first sight, and to stick to the letter of Spinoza's text, this has nothing to do with an idea, but it has nothing to do with an affect either. Affectus was determined as the continuous variation of the power of acting. An affection is what? In a first determination, an affection is the following: it's a state of a body insofar as it is subject to the action of another body. What does this mean? “I feel the sun on me,” or else “A ray of sunlight falls upon you”; it's an affection of your body. What is an affection of your body? Not the sun, but the action of the sun or the effect of the sun on you. In other words an effect, or the action that one body produces on another, once it's noted that Spinoza, on the basis of reasons from his Physics, does not believe in action at a distance, action always implies a contact, and is even a mixture of bodies. Affectio is a mixture of two bodies, one body which is said to act on another, and the other receives the trace of the first. Every mixture of bodies will be termed an affection. Spinoza infers from this that affectio, being defined as a mixture of bodies, indicates the nature of the modified body, the nature of the affectionate or affected body, the affection indicates the nature of the affected body much more than it does the nature of the affecting body. He analyses his famous example, “I see the sun as a flat disk situated at a distance of three hundred feet.” That's an affectio, or at very least the perception of an affectio. It's clear that my perception of the sun indicates much more fully the constitution of my body, the way in which my body is constituted, than it does the way in which the sun is constituted. I perceive the sun in this fashion by virtue of the state of my visual perceptions. A fly will perceive the sun in another fashion.
In order to preserve the rigor of his terminology, Spinoza will say that an affectio indicates the nature of the modified body rather than the nature of the modifying body, and it envelopes the nature of the modifying body. I would say that the first sort of ideas for Spinoza is every mode of thought which represents an affection of the body...which is to say the mixture of one body with another body, or the trace of another body on my body will be termed an idea of affection. It's in this sense that one could say that it is an affection-idea, the first type of ideas. And this first type of ideas answers to what Spinoza terms the first kind of knowledge [connaissance], the lowest.
Why is it the lowest? It's obvious that it's the lowest because these ideas of affection know [connaissent] things only by their effects: I feel the affection of the sun on me, the trace of the sun on me. It's the effect of the sun on my body. But the causes, that is, that which is my body, that which is the body of the sun, and the relation between these two bodies such that the one produces a particular effect on the other rather than something else, of these things I know [sais] absolutely nothing. Let's take another example: “The sun melts wax and hardens clay.” These points are not nothing. They're ideas of affectio. I see the wax which flows, and right beside it I see the clay which hardens; this is an affection of the wax and an affection of the clay, and I have an idea of these affections, I perceive effects. By virtue of what corporeal constitution does the clay harden under the sun's action? As long as I remain in the perception of affection, I know nothing of it. One could say that affection-ideas are representations of effects without their causes, and it's precisely these that Spinoza calls inadequate ideas. These are ideas of mixture separated from the causes of the mixture.
And in effect, the fact that, at the level of affection-ideas, we have only inadequate and confused ideas is well understood for what are affection-ideas in the order of life? And doubtless, alas, many among us who have not done enough philosophy live only like that. Once, only once, Spinoza employs a Latin word which is quite strange but very important: occursus. Literally this is the encounter. To the extent that I have affection-ideas I live chance encounters: I walk in the street, I see Pierre who does not please me, it's the function of the constitution of his body and his soul and the constitution of my body and my soul. Someone who displeases me, body and soul, what does that mean? I would like to make you understand why Spinoza has had such a strong reputation for materialism even though he never ceases to speak of the mind and the soul, a reputation for atheism even though he never ceases to speak of God, it's quite curious. One sees quite well why people have said that this is purely materialist. When I say “This one does not please me,” that means, literally, that the effect of his body on mine, the effect of his soul on mine affects me disagreeably, it is the mixture of bodies or mixture of souls. There is a noxious mixture or a good mixture, as much at the level of the body as at that of the soul.
It's exactly like this: “I don't like cheese.” What does that mean, “I don't like cheese”? That means that it mixes with my body in a manner by which I am modified disagreeably, it cannot mean anything else. Thus there isn't any reason to make up differences between spiritual sympathies and bodily relations. In “I don't like cheese” there is also an affair of the soul, but in “Pierre or Paul does not please me” there is also an affair of the body, all this is tantamount to the same thing. To put it simply, why is this a confused idea, this affection-idea, this mixture—it is inevitably confused and inadequate since I don't know absolutely, at this level, by virtue of what and how the body or the soul of Pierre is constituted, in what way it does not agree with mine, or in what way his body does not agree with mine. I can merely say that it does not agree with me, but by virtue of what constitution of the two bodies, of the affecting body and the affected body, of the body which acts and the body which is subjected, I can at this level know nothing. As Spinoza says, these are consequences separated from their premises or, if you prefer, it is a knowledge [connaissance] of effects independent of the knowledge of causes. Thus they are chance encounters. What can happen in chance encounters?
But what is a body? I'm not going to develop that, that may be the object of a special course. The theory of what a body or even a soul is, which comes down to the same thing, is found in book two of the Ethics. For Spinoza, the individuality of a body is defined by the following: it's when a certain composite or complex relation (I insist on that point, quite composite, very complex) of movement and rest is preserved through all the changes which affect the parts of the body. It's the permanence of a relation of movement and rest through all the changes which affect all the parts, taken to infinity, of the body under consideration. You understand that a body is necessarily composite to infinity. My eye, for example, my eye and the relative constancy of my eye are defined by a certain relation of movement and rest through all the modifications of the diverse parts of my eye; but my eye itself, which already has an infinity of parts, is one part among the parts of my body, the eye in its turn is a part of the face and the face, in its turn, is a part of my body, etc....thus you have all sorts of relations which will be combined with one another to form an individuality of such and such degree. But at each one of these levels or degrees, individuality will be defined by a certain relation composed of movement and rest.
What can happen if my body is made this way, a certain relation of movement and rest which subsumes an infinity of parts? Two things can happen: I eat something that I like, or else another example, I eat something and collapse, poisoned. Literally speaking, in the one case I had a good encounter and in the other I had a bad one. All this is in the category of occursus. When I have a bad encounter, this means that the body which is mixed with mine destroys my constituent relation, or tends to destroy one of my subordinate relations. For example, I eat something and get a stomach ache which does not kill me; this has destroyed or inhibited, compromised one of my sub-relations, one of the relations that compose me. Then I eat something and I die. This has decomposed my composite relation, it has decomposed the complex relation which defined my individuality. It hasn't simply destroyed one of my subordinate relations which composed one of my sub-individualities, it has destroyed the characteristic relation of my body. And the opposite happens when I eat something that agrees with me.
Spinoza asks, what is evil? We find this in his correspondence, in the letters he sent to a young Dutchman who was as evil as can be. This Dutchman didn't like Spinoza and attacked him constantly, demanding of him, “Tell me what you think evil is.” You know that at that time, letters were very important and philosophers sent many of them. Spinoza, who is very very good-natured, believes at first that this is a young man who wants to be taught and, little by little, he comes to understand that this is not the case at all, that the Dutchman wants his skin. From letter to letter, the good Christian Blyenberg's anger swells and he ends by saying to Spinoza, “But you are the devil!” Spinoza says that evil is not difficult, evil is a bad encounter. Encountering a body which mixes badly with your own. Mixing badly means mixing in conditions such that one of your subordinate or constituent relations is either threatened, compromised or even destroyed.
More and more gay, wanting to show that he is right, Spinoza analyzes the example of Adam in his own way. In the conditions in which we live, we seem absolutely condemned to have only one sort of idea, affection-ideas. By means of what miracle could one move away from these actions of bodies that do not wait for us in order to exist, how could one rise to a knowledge [connaissance] of causes? For the moment we see clearly that all that is given to us is ideas of affection, ideas of mixture. For the moment we see clearly that since birth we have been condemned to chance encounters, so things aren't going well. What does this imply? It already implies a fanatical reaction against Descartes since Spinoza will affirm strongly, in book two, that we can only know [connaÓtre] ourselves and we can only know external bodies by the affections that the external bodies produce on our own. For those who can recall a little Descartes, this is the basic anti-cartesian proposition since it excludes every apprehension of the thinking thing by itself, that is it excludes all possibility of the cogito. I only ever know the mixtures of bodies and I only know myself by way of the action of other bodies on me and by way of mixtures.
This is not only anti-cartesianism but also anti-Christianity, and why? Because one of the fundamental points of theology is the immediate perfection of the first created man, which is what's called in theology the theory of Adamic perfection. Before he sinned, Adam was created as perfect as he could be, so then the story of his sin is precisely the story of the Fall, but the Fall presupposes an Adam who is perfect insofar as he is a created thing. Spinoza finds this idea very amusing. His idea is that this isn't possible; supposing that one is given the idea of a first man, one can only be given this idea as that of the most powerless being, the most imperfect there could be since the first man can only exist in chance encounters and in the action of other bodies on his own. Thus, in supposing that Adam exists, he exists in a mode of absolute imperfection and inadequacy, he exists in the mode of a little baby who is given over to chance encounters, unless he is in a protected milieu—but I've said too much. What would that be, a protected milieu?
Evil is a bad encounter, which means what? Spinoza, in his correspondence with the Dutchman, tells him, “You always relate to me the example of God who forbade Adam from eating the apple, and you cite this as the example of a moral law. The first prohibition.” Spinoza tells him, “But this is not at all what happens,” and then Spinoza relates the entire story of Adam in the form of a poisoning and an intoxication. What happened in reality? God never forbade whatever it might be to Adam, He granted him a revelation. Adam foresaw the noxious effect that the body of the apple would have on the constitution of his own body. In other words the apple is a poison for Adam. The body of the apple exists under such a characteristic relation, such is its constitution, that it can only act on Adam's body by decomposing the relation of Adam's body. And if he was wrong not to listen to God, this is not in the sense that he disobeyed in this matter, but that he didn't comprehend anything. This situation also exists among animals, certain of which have an instinct that turns them away from what is poisonous to them, but there are others which don't have this instinct. When I have an encounter such that the relation of the body which modifies me, which acts on me, is combined with my own relation, with the characteristic relation of my own body, what happens? I would say that my power of acting is increased; at least it is increased with regard to this particular relation. When on the contrary I have an encounter such that the characteristic relation of the body which modifies me compromises or destroys one of my relations, or my characteristic relation, I would say that my power of acting is diminished or even destroyed. We rediscover here our two fundamental affects or affectus: sadness and joy. To recapitulate everything at this level, as a function of ideas of affection which I have, there are two sorts of ideas of affection: the idea of an effect which benefits or favors my own characteristic relation, and second, the idea of an effect which compromises or destroys my own characteristic relation. To these two types of ideas of affection will correspond the two movements of variation in the affectus, the two poles of variation: in one case my power of acting is increased and I undergo [Èprouve] an affectus of joy, and in the other case my power of acting is diminished and I undergo an affectus of sadness.
Spinoza will engender all the passions, in their details, on the basis of these two fundamental affects: joy as an increase in the power of acting, sadness as a diminution or destruction of the power of acting. This comes down to saying that each thing, body or soul, is defined by a certain characteristic, complex relation, but I would also say that each thing, body or soul, is defined by a certain power [pouvoir] of being affected. Everything happens as if each one of us had a certain power of being affected. If you consider beasts, Spinoza will be firm in telling us that what counts among animals is not at all the genera or species; genera and species are absolutely confused notions, abstract ideas. What counts is the question, of what is a body capable? And thereby he sets out one of the most fundamental questions in his whole philosophy (before him there had been Hobbes and others) by saying that the only question is that we don't even know [savons] what a body is capable of, we prattle on about the soul and the mind and we don't know what a body can do. But a body must be defined by the ensemble of relations which compose it, or, what amounts to exactly the same thing, by its power of being affected. As long as you don't know what power a body has to be affected, as long as you learn like that, in chance encounters, you will not have the wise life, you will not have wisdom.
Knowing what you are capable of. This is not at all a moral question, but above all a physical question, as a question to the body and to the soul. A body has something fundamentally hidden: we could speak of the human species, the human genera, but this won't tell us what is capable of affecting our body, what is capable of destroying it. The only question is the power of being affected. What distinguishes a frog from an ape? It's not the specific or generic characteristics, Spinoza says, rather it's the fact that they are not capable of the same affections. Thus it will be necessary to make, for each animal, veritable charts of affects, the affects of which a beast is capable. And likewise for men: the affects of which man is capable. We should notice at this moment that, depending on the culture, depending on the society, men are not all capable of the same affects.
It's well known that one method by which certain governments exterminated the Indians of South America was to have left, on trails the Indians traveled, clothing from influenza victims, clothing gathered in the infirmaries, because the Indians couldn't stand the affect influenza. No need even of machine guns, they dropped like flies. It's the same with us, in the conditions of forest life we risk not living very long. Thus the human genera, species or even race hasn't any importance, Spinoza will say, as long as you haven't made the list of affects of which someone is capable, in the strongest sense of the word “capable,” comprising the maladies of which s/he is capable as well. It's obvious that the racehorse and the draft horse are the same species, two varieties of the same species, yet their affects are very different, their maladies are absolutely different, their capacities of being affected are completely different and, from this point of view, we must say that a draft horse is closer to an ox than to a racehorse. Thus an ethological chart of affects is quite different from a generic or specific determination of animals.
You see that the power of being affected can be fulfilled in two ways. When I am poisoned, my power of being affected is absolutely fulfilled, but it's fulfilled in such a way that my power of acting tends toward zero, which is to say it's inhibited. Inversely, when I undergo joy, that is to say when I encounter a body which combines its relation with my own, my power of being affected is equally fulfilled and my power of acting increases and tends toward...what?
In the case of a bad encounter, all my force of existing (vis existendi) is concentrated, tending toward the following goal: to invest the trace of the body which affected me in order to reject the effect of this body, so much so that my power of acting is diminished accordingly. These are very concrete things: you have a headache and you say, “I can't even read anymore”; this means that your force of existing invests the trace of the migraine so fully, it implies changes in one of your subordinate relations, it invests the trace of your migraine so fully that your power of acting is diminished accordingly. On the contrary, when you say, “I feel really good,” and you are content, you are also content because bodies are mixed with you in proportions and under conditions which are favorable to your relation; at that moment the power of the body which affects you is combined with your own in such a way that your power of acting is increased. So although in the two cases your power of being affected will be completely actualized [effectuÈ], it can be actualized in such a way that the power of acting diminishes to infinity or alternatively the power of acting increases to infinity.
To infinity? Is this true? Evidently not, since at our level the forces of existing, the powers [pouvoirs] of being affected and the powers [puissances] of acting are inevitably finite. Only God has an absolutely infinite power [puissance]. Right, but within certain limits I will not cease to pass via these variations of the power of acting as a function of the ideas I have, I will not cease to follow the line of continuous variation of the affectus as a function of affection-ideas that I have and the encounters that I have, in such a way that, at each instant, my power of being affected is completely actualized, completely fulfilled. Fulfilled, simply, in the mode of sadness or the mode of joy. Of course also both at once, since it's well understood that, in the sub-relations which compose us, a part of ourselves can be composed of sadness and another part of ourselves can be composed of joy. There are local sadnesses and local joys. For example, Spinoza gives the following definition of tickling: a local joy; this does not mean that everything is joy in the tickling, it can be a joy of a nature that implies a coexistant irritation of another nature, an irritation which is sadness: my power of being affected tends to be exceeded [dÈpassÈ]. Nothing that exceeds his/her power of being affected is good for a person. A power of being affected is really an intensity or threshold of intensity.
What Spinoza really wants to do is to define the essence of someone in an intensive fashion as an intensive quantity. As long as you don't know your intensities you risk the bad encounter and you will have to say, it's beautiful, both the excess and the immoderation..no immoderation at all, there's only failure, nothing other than failure. Advice for overdoses. This is precisely the phenomenon of the power of being affected which is exceeded in a total destruction.
Certainly in my generation, on average, we were much more cultured or trained in philosophy, when we used to do it, and on the other hand we had a very striking kind of lack of culture in other domains, in music, painting, cinema.
I have the impression that for many among you the relation has changed, that is to say that you know absolutely nothing, nothing in philosophy and you know, or rather you have a concrete grasp of things like a color, you know what a sound is or what an image is. A philosophy is a kind of synthesizer of concepts, creating a concept is not at all ideological. A concept is a created thing.
What I've defined up to now is solely the increase and diminution of the power of acting, and whether the power of acting increases or diminishes, the corresponding affect (affectus) is always a passion. Whether it be a joy which increases my power of acting or a sadnesss which diminishes my power of acting, in both cases these are passions: joyful passions or sad passions. Yet again Spinoza denounces a plot in the universe of those who are interested in affecting us with sad passions. The priest has need of the sadness of his subjects, he needs these subjects to feel themselves guilty. The auto-affections or active affects assume that we possess our power of acting and that, on such and such a point, we have left the domain of the passions in order to enter the domain of actions. This is what remains for us to see.
How could we leave behind affection-ideas, how could we leave behind the passive affects which consist in increase or diminution of our power of acting, how could we leave behind the world of inadequate ideas once we're told that our condition seems to condemn us strictly to this world. On that score we must read the Ethics as preparing a kind of dramatic turn. It's going to speak to us of active affects where there are no longer passions, where the power of acting is conquered instead of passing by all these continuous variations. Here, there's a very strict point. There's a fundamental difference between Ethics and Morality. Spinoza doesn't make up a morality, for a very simply reason: he never asks what we must do, he always asks what we are capable of, what's in our power, ethics is a problem of power, never a problem of duty. In this sense Spinoza is profoundly immoral. Regarding the moral problem, good and evil, he has a happy nature because he doesn't even comprehend what this means. What he comprehends are good encounters, bad encounters, increases and diminutions of power. Thus he makes an ethics and not at all a morality. This is why he so struck Nietzsche.
We are completely enclosed in this world of affection-ideas and these affective continuous variations of joy and sadness, so sometimes my power of acting increases, okay, sometimes it diminishes; but whether it increases or diminishes I remain within passion because, in both cases, I do not possess it: I'm still separated from my power of acting. So when my power of acting increases, it means that I am then relatively less separated, and inversely, but I am still formally separated from my power of acting, I do not possess it. In other words, I am not the cause of my own affects, and since I'm not the cause of my own affects, they are produced in me by something else: I am therefore passive, I'm in the world of passion.
But there are notion-ideas and essence-ideas. Already at the level of notion-ideas a kind of escape from this world is going to appear. One is completely smothered, enclosed in a world of absolute impotence, even when my power of acting increases it's on a segment of variation, nothing guarantees me that, at the street corner, I'm not going to receive a great blow to the head and that my power of acting is going to fall again.
You recall that an affection-idea is a mixture, that is to say the idea of an effect of a body on mine. A notion-idea no longer concerns the effect of another body on mine, it's an idea which concerns and which has for its object the agreement or disagreement of the characteristic relations between two bodies. If there is such an idea—we don't know yet if there is one, but we can always define something even if it means concluding that it can't exist—it's what we will call a nominal definition. I would say that the nominal definition of the notion is that it's an idea which, instead of representing the effect of a body on another, that is to say the mixture of two bodies, represents the internal agreement or disagreement of the characteristic relations of the two bodies.
An example: if I knew enough about the characteristic relation of the body named arsenic and the characteristic relation of the human body, I could form a notion of the disagreement of these two relations to the point that the arsenic, under its characteristic relation, destroys the characteristic relation of my body. I am poisoned, I die.
You see that the notion, differing from the idea of affection, instead of being the seizure of the extrinsic relation of one body with another or the effect of one body on another, the notion is raised to the comprehension of the cause, that is if the mixture has such and such effect, this is by virtue of the nature of the relation of the two bodies considered and of the manner in which the relation of one of the bodies is combined with the relation of the other body. There is always a composition of relations. When I am poisoned, the body of arsenic has induced the parts of my body to enter into a relation other than the one which characterizes me. At that moment, the parts of my body enter into a new relation induced by the arsenic, which is perfectly combined with the arsenic; the arsenic is happy since it feeds on me. The arsenic undergoes a joyful passion because, as Spinoza says so well, each body has a soul. Thus the arsenic is joyful, but me, evidently I'm not. It has induced the parts of my body to enter into a relation which is combined with its own, the arsenic's. Me, I'm sad, I'm heading toward death. You see that the notion, if one can reach it, is a formidable thing.
We are not far from an analytical geometry. A notion is not at all abstract, it's quite concrete: this body here, that body there. If I had the characteristic relation of the soul and of the body of that which I say displeases me, in relation to my characteristic relation in myself, I would comprehend everything, I would know by causes instead of knowing only by effects separated from their causes. At that moment I would have an adequate idea. Just as if I understood why someone pleases me. I took as an example digestive relations, but we wouldn't have to change a line for amorous relations. It's not at all that Spinoza conceived love like he conceived digestion, he conceived digestion like love as well. Take a couple ý la Strindberg, this kind of decomposition of relations and then they are recombined in order to begin again. What is this continuous variation of the affectus, and how does a certain disagreement agree with certain people? Why can certain people live only in a certain indefinitely repeated domestic quarrel? They emerge from it as if it had been a bath of cool water for them.
You understand the difference between a notion-idea and an affection-idea. A notion-idea is inevitably adequate since it's a knowledge [connaissance] by causes. Spinoza not only uses the term notion here to qualify this second sort of idea, but he also uses the term common notion. The word is quite ambiguous: does it mean common to all minds? Yes and no, it's very meticulous in Spinoza. In any case, don't ever confuse a common notion and an abstraction. He always defines a common notion like this: it's the idea of something which is common to all bodies or to several bodies—at least two—and which is common to the whole and to the part. Therefore there surely are common notions which are common to all minds, but they're common to all minds only to the extent that they are first the idea of something which is common to all bodies. Therefore these are not at all abstract notions. What is common to all bodies? For example, being in movement or at rest. Movement and rest will be objects of notions said to be common to all bodies. Therefore there are common notions which designate something common to all bodies. There are also common notions which designate something common to two bodies or to two souls, for example, someone I love. Once again the common notion is not abstract, it has nothing to do with species or genera, it's actually the statement [ÈnoncÈ] of what is common to several bodies or to all bodies; or, since there's no single body which is not itself made up of several, one can say that there are common things or common notions in each body. Hence we fall back upon the question: how can one leave this situation which condemned us to mixtures?
Here Spinoza's texts are very complicated. One can only conceive this departure in the following manner: broadly speaking, when I am affected in chance encounters, either I am affected with sadness or with joy. When I am affected with sadness, my power of acting diminishes, which is to say that I am further separated from this power. When I am affected with joy, it increases, which is to say that I am less separated from this power. Good. If you consider yourself as affected with sadness, I believe that everything is wretched, there is no longer an exit for one simple reason: nothing in sadness, which diminishes your power of acting, can induce you from within sadness to form a notion common to something which would be common to the bodies which affect you with sadness and to your own. For one very simple reason, that the body which affects you with sadness only affects you with sadness to the extent that it affects you in a relation which does not agree with your own. Spinoza means something very simple, that sadness makes no one intelligent. In sadness one is wretched. It's for this reason that the powers-that-be [pouvoirs] need subjects to be sad. Agony has never been a cultural game of intelligence or vivacity. As long as you have a sad affect, a body acts on yours, a soul acts on yours in conditions and in a relation which do not agree with yours. At that point, nothing in sadness can induce you to form the common notion, that is to say the idea of a something in common between two bodies and two souls. What he's saying is full of wisdom. This is why thinking of death is the most base thing. He is opposed to the whole philosophical tradition which is a meditation on death. His formula is that philosophy is a meditation on life and not on death. Obviously, because death is always a bad encounter.
Another case. You are affected with joy. Your power of acting is increased, this doesn't mean that you possess it yet, but the fact that you are affected with joy signifies and indicates that the body or soul which affects you thus affects you in a relation which is combined with your own and which is combined with your own, and that goes for the formula of love and the digestive formula. In an affect of joy, therefore, the body which affects you is indicated as combining its relation with your own and not as its relation decomposing your own. At that point, something induces you to form a notion of what is common to the body which affects you and to your own body, to the soul which affects you and to your own soul. In this sense joy makes one intelligent. There we feel that it's a curious thing, because, geometrical method or not, we grant him everything, he can demonstrate it; but there is an obvious appeal to a kind of lived experience. There's an obvious appeal to way of perceiving, and even more, to a way of living. It's necessary to already have such a hatred of sad passions, the list of sad passions in Spinoza is infinite, he goes so far as to say that every idea of reward envelopes a sad passion, every idea of security envelopes a sad passion, every idea of pride, guilt. It's one of the most marvelous moments in the Ethics. The affects of joy are like a springboard, they make us pass through something that we would never have been able to pass if there had only been sadnesses. He solicits us to form the idea of what is common to the affecting body and the affected body. This can fail, but it can also succeed and I become intelligent.
Someone who becomes good in Latin at the same time that he becomes a lover...this is seen in the classroom. What's it connected to? How does someone make progress? One never makes progress on a homogeneous line, something here makes us make progress down there, as if a small joy here had released a trigger. Anew, the necessity of a map: what happened there that unblocked this here? A small joy precipitates us into a world of concrete ideas which sweeps out the sad affects or which is in the process of struggling, all of this makes up part of the continuous variation. But at the same time, this joy propels us somehow beyond the continuous variation, it makes us acquire at least the potentiality of a common notion. It's necessary to conceive this very concretely, these are quite local things. If you succeed in forming a common notion, at whatever point you yourself have a relation with such a person or such an animal, you say: I've finally understood something, I am less stupid than yesterday. The “I've understood” that one says is sometimes the moment in which you formed a common notion. You formed it quite locally, it didn't give you all the common notions. Spinoza doesn't think at all like a rationalist, among the rationalists there is the world of reason and there are the ideas. If you have one, obviously you have all of them: you are reasonable. Spinoza thinks that being reasonable, or being wise, is a problem of becoming, which changes in a singular fashion the contents of the concept of reason. It's necessary to know the encounters which agree with you. No one could ever say that it's good for her/him when something exceeds her/his power of being affected. The most beautiful thing is to live on the edges, at the limit of her/his own power of being affected, on the condition that this be the joyful limit since there is the limit of joy and the limit of sadness; but everything which exceeds your power of being affected is ugly. Relatively ugly: what's good for flies is not inevitably good for you... There is no longer any abstract notion, there isn't any formula which is good for man in general. What counts is what your power is for you. Lawrence said a directly Spinozist thing: an intensity which exceeds your power of being affected is bad (posthumous writings). It's inevitable: a blue that is too intense for my eyes will not make me say it's beautiful, it will perhaps be beautiful for someone else. There's good for all, you tell me...Yes, because the powers of being affected are combined.
To assume that there was a power of being affected which defined the power of being affected of the whole universe is quite possible since all relations are combined to infinity, but not in just any order. My relation doesn't combine with that of arsenic, but what can this do? Obviously it does a lot to me, but at this moment the parts of my body enter again into a new relation which is combined with that of the arsenic. It's necessary to know in what order the relations are combined. But if we knew in what order the relations of the whole universe are combined, we could define a power of being affected of the whole universe, which would be the cosmos, the world insofar as it's a body or a soul. At this moment the whole world is only one single body following the order of relations which are combined. At this moment you have, to speak precisely, a universal power of being affected: God, who is the whole universe insofar as He is its cause, has by nature a universal power of being affected. It's useless to say that he's in the process of using the idea of God in a strange manner.
You undergo a joy, you feel that this joy concerns you, that it concerns something important regarding your principal relations, your characteristic relations. Here then it must serve you as a springboard, you form the notion-idea: in what do the body which affects me and my own body agree? In what do the soul which affects me and my own soul agree, from the point of view of the composition of their relations, and no longer from the point of view of their chance encounters. You do the opposite operation from what is generally done. Generally people tend to summarize their unhappinesses, this is where neurosis or depression begins, when we set out to figure the totals; oh shit, there's this and there's that. Spinoza proposes the opposite: instead of summarizing of our sadnesses, taking a local point of departure on a joy on the condition that we feel that it truly concerns us. On that point one forms the common notion, on that point one tries to win locally, to open up this joy. It's the labor of life. One tries to diminish the respective share of sadnesses in relation to the respective share of a joy, and one attempts the following tremendous coup: one is sufficiently assured of common notions which refer to relations of agreement between such and such body and my own, one will attempt then to apply the same method to sadness, but one cannot do it on the basis of sadness, that is to say one will attempt to form common notions by which one will arrive at a comprehension of the vital manner in which such and such body disagrees and no longer agrees. That becomes, no longer a continuous variation, that becomes a bell curve.
You leave joyful passions, the increase in the power of acting; you make use of them to form common notions of a first type, the notion of what there was in common between the body which affected me with joy and my own body, you open up to a maximum your living common notions and you descend once again toward sadness, this time with common notions that you form in order to comprehend in what way such a body disagrees with your own, such a soul disagrees with your own.
At this moment you can already say that you are within the adequate idea since, in effect, you have passed into the knowledge of causes. You can already say that you are within philosophy. One single thing counts, the way of living. One single thing counts, the meditation on life, and far from being a meditation on death it's rather the operation which consists in making death only finally affect the proportion that is relatively the smallest in me, that is, living it as a bad encounter. It's simply well known that, to the extent that a body is tired, the probabilities of bad encounters increase. It's a common notion, a common notion of disagreement. As long as I'm young, death is truly something which comes from outside, it's truly an extrinsic accident, except in the case of an internal malady. There is no common notion, on the other hand it's true that when a body ages, its power of acting diminishes: I can no longer do what I could still do yesterday; this, this fascinates me in aging, this kind of diminution of the power of acting. What is a clown, vitally speaking? It's precisely the type that does not accept aging, he doesn't know how to age quickly enough. It's not necessary to age too quickly because there's also another way of being a clown: acting the old man. The more one ages the less one wants to have bad encounters, but when one is young one leaps into the risk of the bad encounter. The type which, to the extent that his power of acting diminishes as a function of aging, his power of being affected varies, doesn't do it, continues to act the young man, is fascinating. It's very sad. There's a fascinating passage in one of Fitzgerald's novels (the water-ski episode [in Tender is the Night]), there are ten pages of total beauty on not knowing how to age...You know the spectacles which are not uncomfortable for the spectators themselves.
Knowing how to age is arriving at the moment when the common notions must make you comprehend in what way things and other bodies disagree with your own. Then inevitably it will be necessary to find a new grace which will be that of your age, above all not clinging to youth. It's a kind of wisdom. It's not the good health which makes one say “Live life as you please,” it's no longer the will to cling to life. Spinoza knew admirably well how to die, but he knew very well what he was capable of, he knew how to say “Piss off” [merde] to the other philosophers. Leibniz came to him to steal bits of manuscript in order to say afterward that they were his own. There are very curious stories about this, he was a dangerous man, Leibniz. I end by saying that at this second level, one attains the notion-idea where relations are combined, and once again this is not abstract since I've tried to say that it's an extraordinarily vital enterprise. One has left the passions behind. One has acquired formal possession of the power of acting. The formation of notions, which are not abstract ideas, which are literally rules of life, gives me possession of the power of acting. The common notions are the second kind of knowledge [connaissance]. In order to understand the third it's necessary already to understand the second. Only Spinoza has entered into the third kind. Above the common notions... You've noticed that while the common notions are not abstract, they are collective, they always refer to a multiplicity, but they're no less individual for that. They are the ways in which such and such bodies agree, at the limit they are the ways in which all bodies agree, but at that moment it's the whole world which is an individuality. Thus the common notions are always individual.
Beyond even the compositions of relations, beyond the internal agreements which define the common notions, there are the singular essences. What's the difference? It would be necessary to say that, at the limit, the relation and relations which characterize me express my singular essence, but nevertheless it's not the same thing. Why? Because the relation which characterizes me...what I'm saying here is not entirely in the text, but it's practically there... The common notions or the relations which characterize me still concern the extensive parts of my body. My body is composed of an infinity of parts extended to the infinite, and these parts enter into such and such relations which correspond to my essence but are not confused with my essence, for the relations which characterize me are still rules under which are associated, in movement and at rest, the extended parts of my body. Whereas the singular essence is a degree of power [puissance], that is to say these are my thresholds of intensity.
Between the lowest and the highest, between my birth and my death, these are my intensive thresholds. What Spinoza calls singular essence, it seems to me, is an intensive quality, as if each one of us were defined by a kind of complex of intensities which refers to her/his essence, and also of relations which regulate the extended parts, the extensive parts. So that, when I have knowledge [connaissance] of notions, that is to say of relations of movement and rest which regulate the agreement or disagreement of bodies from the point of view of their extended parts, from the point of view of their extension, I don't yet have full possession of my essence to the extent that it is intensity. And God, what's that? When Spinoza defines God as absolutely infinite power [puissance], he expresses himself well. All the terms that he explicitly employs: degree, which in Latin is gradus, refers to a long tradition in medieval philosophy. Gradus is the intensive quantity, in opposition to or differing from the extensive parts. Thus it would be necessary to conceive the singular essence of each one as this kind of intensity, or limit of intensity. It's singular because, whether it be our community of genera or species, we are all human for example, yet none of us has the same threshold.




It's quite curious to what extent philosophy, up to the end of the 17th century, ultimately speaks to us, all the time, of God. And after all, Spinoza, excommunicated Jew, is not the last to speak to us of God. And the first book of his great work The Ethics is called “Of God.” And from all of them, whether it's Descartes, Malebranche, Leibniz, we get the impression that the boundary between philosophy and theology is extremely vague.
Why is philosophy so compromised with God? And right up to the revolutionary coup of the 18th century philosophers. Is it a dishonest compromise [compromission] or something a little purer? We could say that thought, until the end of the 17th century, must take considerable account of the demands of the Church, thus it's clearly forced to take many religious themes into account. But one feels quite strongly that this is much too easy; we could just as well say that, until this era, thought's lot is somewhat linked to that of a religious feeling.
I'm going back to an analogy with painting because it's true that painting is full of images of God. My question is: is it sufficient to say that this is an inevitable constraint in this era? There are two possible answers. The first is yes, this is an inevitable constraint of the era which refers to the conditions of art in this era. Or to say, a bit more positively, that it's because there's a religious feeling from which the painter, and even more painting, do not escape. The philosopher and philosophy don't escape either. Is this sufficient? Could we not make up another hypothesis, namely that painting in this era has so much need of God that the divine, far from being a constraint for the painter, is the site of his maximum emancipation. In other words, with God, he can do anything whatsoever, he can do what he couldn't do with humans, with creatures. So much so that God is directly invested by painting, by a kind of flow of painting, and at this level painting will find a kind of freedom for itself that it would never have found otherwise. At the limit, the most pious painter and the one who does painting and who, in a certain way, is the most impious, are not opposed to each other because the way painting invests the divine is a way which is nothing but pictorial, where the painter finds nothing but the conditions of his radical emancipation.
I give three examples: “...el Greco...” This creation could only be achieved on the basis of Christian figures. Then it's true that, at a certain level, constraints operated on them, and at another level the artist is the one who?Bergson said this about the living thing [vivant], he said that the living thing is what turns obstacles into means?this would be a good definition of the artist. It's true that there are constraints from the Church which operate on the painter, but there is a transformation of constraints into means of creation. They make use of God in order to achieve a liberation of forms, to push the forms to the point where the forms have nothing to do with an illustration. The forms are unleashed [se déchaînent]. They embark upon a kind of Sabbath, a very pure dance, the lines and colors lose all necessity to be verisimilar [vraisemblables], to be exact, to resemble something. It's the great enfranchisement of lines and colors which is done thanks to this outward show [apparence]: the subordination of painting to the demands of Christianity.
Another example...a creation of the world... The Old Testament sets up for them a kind of liberation of movements, a liberation of forms, lines and colors. So much so that, in a sense, atheism has never been external to religion: atheism is the artistic power [puissance] at work on [travaille] religion. With God, everything is permitted. I have the distinct feeling that for philosophy it's been exactly the same thing, and if philosophers have spoken to us so much of God?and they could well be Christians or believers?this hasn't been lacking an intense sense of jest [rigolade]. It wasn't an incredulous jesting, but a joy arising from the labor they were involved in.
Just as I said that God and Christ offered an extraordinary opportunity for painting to free lines, colors and movements from the constraints of resemblance, so God and the theme of God offered the irreplacable opportunity for philosophy to free the object of creation in philosophy?that is to say concepts?from the constraints that had been imposed on them...the simple representation of things.
The concept is freed at the level of God because it no longer has the task of representing something; at that moment it becomes the sign of a presence. To speak by analogy, it takes on lines, colors, movements that it would never have had without this detour through God. It's true that philosophers are subject to the constraints of theology, but in conditions such that they make this constraint into a means of fantastic creation, that is they will extract from it [lui arracher] a liberation of the concept without anyone even questioning it. Except in the case where a philosopher goes too fast or too far. Is this perhaps the case with Spinoza? From the start, Spinoza was placed in conditions in which what he said to us no longer had anything to represent. That's why what Spinoza is going to name God, in the first book of The Ethics, is going to be the strangest thing in the world. It's going to be the concept insofar as it brings together the set [ensemble] of all these possibilities... Via the philosophical concept of God is made?and it could only have been made at this level?is made the strangest creation of philosophy as a system of concepts.
What painters and philosophers subjected God to represents either painting as passion or philosophy as passion. Painters subjected the body of Christ to a new passion: they condense [ramassent] him, they make him contract... Perspective is freed from every constraint to represent whatever it may be, and it's the same thing for philosophers.
I take the example of Leibniz. Leibniz begins the creation of the world anew. He asks how it is that God creates the world. He goes back to the classical problem: what is the role of God's understanding and God's will in the creation of the world.
Let's suppose that Leibniz tells us the following: God has an understanding, an infinite understanding of course. It does not resemble ours. The word “understanding” itself would be equivocal. It would not have only a single meaning [sens] since the infinite understanding is absolutely not the same thing as our own understanding, which is a finite understanding. What happens in the infinite understanding? Before God creates the world, there was indeed an understanding, but there wasn't anything else, there was no world. No, says Leibniz, but there are possibles. There are possibles in God's understanding, and all these possibles tend toward existence. That's why essence, for Leibniz, is a tendency to exist, a possibility which tends toward existence. All these possibles have weight according to their quantity of perfection. God's understanding becomes like a kind of envelope in which all the possibles descend and collide. All want to pass into existence. But Leibniz tells us that this is not possible, all cannot pass into existence. Why? Because each one on its own could pass into existence, but not all of them form compatible combinations. There are incompatibilities from the point of view of existence. One such possible cannot be compossible with another such possible.
There's the second stage: he is in the process of creating a logical relation of a completely new type: there are not only possibilities, there are also problems of compossibility. Is a possible compossible with another such possible?
So then which set of possibles will pass into existence? Only that set of possibles that, on its own, has the greatest quantity of perfection will pass into existence. The others will be repressed [refoulés].
It's God's will that chooses the best of all possible worlds. It's an extraordinary descent for the creation of the world, and, thanks to this descent, Leibniz creates all sorts of concepts. We cannot even say of these concepts that they are representational since they precede the things to be represented. And Leibniz issues [lance] his famous metaphor: God creates the world like we play chess, it involves choosing the best combination.
And the calculus of chess will dominate the Leibnizian vision of the divine understanding. It's an extraordinary creation of concepts that finds in the theme of God the very condition of its freedom and its liberation. Once again, just as the painter had to make use of God so that lines, colors and movements would no longer be obliged to represent some existing thing, so the philosopher sets up God, in this era, so that concepts would no longer be obliged to represent some prior thing, something given and ready-made. It's not a matter of asking oneself what a concept represents. It's necessary to ask oneself what its place is in a set of other concepts. In the majority of great philosophers, the concepts they create are inseparable, and are taken in veritable sequences. And if you don't understand the sequence of which a concept is part, you cannot understand the concept. I use this term “sequence” because I'm making a kind of parallel [rapprochement] with painting. If it's true that the constituent unity of cinema is the sequence, I believe that, all things being equal, we could also say it about the concept and about philosophy.
At the level of the problem of Being and the One, it's true that philosophers in their endeavor at conceptual creation about the relations of Being and the One are going to re-establish a sequence. In my view, the first great sequences in philosophy, at the level of concepts, are those Plato constructs in the second part of the Parmenides. There are actually two sequences. The second part of the Parmenides is made up of seven hypotheses. These seven hypotheses are divided into two groups: three hypotheses at first, four hypotheses following. These are two sequences.
First time [temps]: let us assume that the One is superior to Being, the One is above Being. Second time: the One is equal to Being.
Third time: the One is inferior to Being, and derived from Being.
You never say that a philosopher contradicts himself; you will ask such-and-such page, in what sequence to put it, at what level of the sequence? And it's obvious that the One about which Plato speaks to us is not the same according to whether it's situated at the level of the first, the second or the third hypothesis.
One of Plato's disciples, Plotinus, speaks to us at a certain level of the One as the radical origin of Being. Here, Being comes out of [sort de] the One. The One makes Being, therefore it is not, it is superior to Being. This will be the language of pure emanation: the One emanates Being. That is to say the One does not come out of itself in order to produce Being, because if it came out of itself it would become Two, but Being comes out of the One. This is the very formula of the emanative cause. But when we establish ourselves at the level of Being, this same Plotinus will speak to us in splendid and lyrical terms of the Being that contains all beings, the Being that comprehends all beings. And he issues a whole series of formulae which will have very great importance for the whole philosophy of the Renaissance. He will say Being complicates all beings. It's an admirable formula. Why does Being complicate all beings? Because each being explicates Being. There will be a linguistic doublet here: complicate, explicate.
Each thing explicates Being, but Being complicates all things, that is, comprehends them in itself. But these pages of Plotinus are no longer about emanation. You tell yourself that the sequence has evolved: he's in the process of speaking to us of an immanent cause. And indeed, Being behaves like an immanent cause in relation to beings, but at the same time the One behaves in relation to Being like an emanative cause. And if we descend even further, we will see in Plotinus, who nevertheless is not Christian, something which closely resembles a creative cause.
In a certain way, if you don't take sequences into account, you will no longer know exactly what he's talking to us about. Unless there were philosophers who destroy sequences because they want to make something else. A conceptual sequence would be the equivalent of shades [nuances] in painting. A concept changes tone or, at the limit, a concept changes timbre. It would have something like timbres, tonalities. Until Spinoza philosophy proceeded essentially by way of sequences. And on this road the shades concerning causality were very important. Is original causality or the first cause emanative, immanent, creative or something else again? So the immanent cause was present at all times in philosophy, but always as a theme that was never pushed to its own limit [jusqu'au bout de soi-même].
Why? Because this was undoubtedly the most dangerous theme. Treating God as an emanative cause can fit because there is still the distinction between cause and effect. But as immanent cause, such that we no longer know very well how to distinguish cause and effect, that is to say treating God and the creature the same, that becomes much more difficult. Immanence was above all danger. So much so that the idea of an immanent cause appears constantly in the history of philosophy, but as [something] held in check, kept at such-and-such a level of the sequence, not having value, and faced with being corrected by other moments of the sequence and the accusation of immanentism was, for every story of heresies, the fundamental accusation: you confuse God and the creature. That's the fatal accusation. Therefore the immanent cause was constantly there, but it didn't manage to gain a status [statut]. It had only a small place in the sequence of concepts.
Spinoza arrives. He was preceded no doubt by all those who had been more or less audacious concerning the immanent cause, that is to say this cause that's quite bizarre in that, not only does it remain in itself in order to produce, but what it produces remains in it. God is in the world, the world is in God. In The Ethics, I think The Ethics is constructed upon an initial great proposition that could be called the speculative or theoretical proposition. Spinoza's speculative proposition is: there is only one single absolutely infinite substance, that is one possessing all attributes, and what are called creatures are not creatures but modes or manners [manières] of being of this substance. Therefore one single substance having all attributes and whose products are the modes, the ways of being. Hence if these are the manners of being of the substance having all attributes, these modes exist in the attributes of the substance. They are contained [pris] in the attributes.
All the consequences immediately appear. There isn't any hierarchy in the attributes of God, of substance. Why? If substance possesses equally all attributes, there is no hierarchy among the attributes, one is not worth more than another. In other words, if thought is an attribute of God and if extension is an attribute of God or of substance, between thought and extension there won't be any hierarchy. All the attributes will have the same value from the moment that they are attributes of substance. We are still in the abstract. This is the speculative figure of immanence.
I draw several conclusions from this. This is what Spinoza will call God. He calls it God because it's absolutely infinite. What does it represent? It's quite curious. Can one live like that? I draw two consequences from this. First consequence: he's the one who dares to do what many had wanted to do, namely to free the immanent cause completely of all subordination to other processes of causality. There is only one cause, and it's immanent. And this influences practice. Spinoza didn't entitle his book Ontology, he's too shrewd for that, he entitles it Ethics. Which is a way of saying that, whatever the importance of my speculative propositions may be, you can only judge them at the level of the ethics that they envelope or imply [impliquer]. He completely frees the immanent cause, with which Jews, Christians, heretics had so often played around up until then, but he does it within very precise sequences of concepts. Spinoza extracts it from a whole sequence and carries out a forced takeover [coup de force] at the level of concepts. There is no longer a sequence. As a result of his extraction [extraire] of immanent cauality from the sequence of great causes, first causes, as a result of his flattening of everything onto an absolutely infinite substance that comprehends all things as its modes, that possesses all attributes and comprehends all things as its modes, he substituted a veritable plane of immanence for the sequence. It's an extraordinary conceptual revolution: in Spinoza everything happens as if on a fixed plane. An extraordinary fixed plane which is not going to be a plane of immobility at all since all things are going to move?and for Spinoza only the movement of things counts?on this fixed plane. He invents a fixed plane.
Spinoza's speculative proposition is this: extract the concept from the state of variations of sequences and project everything onto a fixed plane which is one of immanence. This implies an extraordinary technique.
It's also a certain mode of life, living in a fixed plane. I no longer live according to variable sequences. But then, what would living on a fixed plane be? Spinoza is one who polishes glasses, who abandoned everything, his heritage, his religion, every social success. He does nothing and before he had written anything whatsoever, he is insulted, he is denounced. Spinoza is the atheist, the abominable. He practically can't publish. He writes letters. He didn't want to be a prof. In the Political Treatise he imagines that the teaching profession would be a volunteer activity, and further, that it would be necessary to pay in order to teach. Professors would teach at the risk of their fortunes and their reputations. That would be a true public prof. Spinoza was involved with a large study group, he sends them The Ethics as he writes it, and they explicate for themselves Spinoza's texts, and they write to Spinoza, who replies. These are very intelligent people. This correspondence is essential. He has his little network. He gets out of trouble thanks to the protection of the De Witt brothers, since he is denounced from all sides.
It's as if he invented the fixed plane at the level of concepts. In my view it's the most fundamental attempt to give a status to the univocity of being, an absolutely univocal being. Univocal being is precisely what Spinoza defines as being the substance having all attributes equal, having all things as modes. The modes of substance are beings [l'étant]. The absolutely infinite substance is Being as Being, the attributes all equal to one another are the essence of being, and here you have this kind of plane on which everything falls back and where everything is inscribed.
Never has a philosopher been treated by his readers the way Spinoza has been, thank God. Spinoza was one of the essential authors for German Romanticism, for example. But even these most educated authors tell us a very curious thing. They say at once that The Ethics is the work that presents us with the most systematic totality, it's system pushed to the absolute, it's univocal being, being that is said only in a single sense. It's the extreme point of the system. It's the most absolute totality. And at the same time, when one reads The Ethics, one always gets the feeling that one will never reach a comprehension of the whole [ensemble]. The whole escapes us. We are not quick enough to keep everything together. There is a very beautiful page where Goethe says that he re-read the same thing ten times and he always fails to comprehend the whole, and every time that I read it I comprehend another piece [bout]. He's a philosopher who has a conceptual apparatus that's among the most systematic in all philosophy. And nevertheless, we always get the impression, we readers, that the whole escapes us and we are reduced to being struck by such and such bit. We are really struck by such and such part. At another level he's the philosopher who pushes the system of concepts the furthest, therefore one who demands a very extensive philosophical education [culture]. The start of The Ethics begins with definitions: of substance, of essence, etc... This all refers to Scholasticism, and at the same time there is no other philosopher who can so easily be read without knowing anything at all. And the two [approaches] must be upheld. Go on, then, and comprehend this mystery. Delbos says of Spinoza that he is a great wind that carries us away. That goes well with my story of the fixed plane. Few philosophers have had this quality [mérite] of achieving the status of a great calm wind. And the miserable, the poor sorts who read Spinoza compare it to the gusts that take us away. How do we reconcile the fact that there was an illiterate reading and an illiterate comprehension of Spinoza with this other fact, that Spinoza is one of the philosophers who, once again, composes the most meticulous conceptual apparatus in the world? There's a success at the level of language.
The Ethics is a book that Spinoza considers as finished. He does not publish his book because he know that if he publishes it, he'll find himself in prison. Everyone falls upon him, he no longer has a protector. Things go very badly for him. He gives up on publication and, in a sense, this doesn't matter since the study group already had the text. Leibniz knew the text. What is this text made of. It begins with The Ethics demonstrated in a geometric manner. It's the use of the geometric method. Many authors had already employed this method, but generally on a sequence in which a philosophical proposition is demonstrated in the manner of a geometrical proposition, a theorem. Spinoza extracts this from the state of a moment in a sequence and he will make it the complete method of exposition of The Ethics. With the result that The Ethics is divided into five books. It begins with definitions, axioms, propositions or theorems, demonstrations of the theorem, corollary of the theorem, that is to say the propositions that flow [découlent] from the theorem, etc... That's the great wind, it forms a kind of continuous layer [nappe]. Geometric exposition is no longer the expression of a moment in a sequence at all, it can be completely extricated since the geometric method is going to be the process which consists in filling in the fixed plane of absolutely infinite substance. Thus a great calm wind. And in all of this there is a continuous linkage [enchaînement] of concepts, each theorem refers to other theorems, each demonstration refers to other demonstrations.




The problems of terminology, of the invention of words.

In order to designate a new concept, sometimes you will take a very common word; it will be even there the best fit. Only implicitly will this very common word take a completely new sense. Sometimes you will take a very special sense of a common word, and you will build up this sense, and sometimes you will need a new word. It is for this reason that, when one reproaches a philosopher for not speaking like everyone else, it doesn’t make any sense. It is sometimes, sometimes, sometimes. Sometimes it is very well to use only common words, sometimes it is necessary to mark the stroke, the moment of the creation of concepts, by an unusual word.

I spoke to you the last time of this great philosopher who was important during the Renaissance, Nicolas of Cusa. Nicolas of Cusa had to create a kind of portmanteau word, he had contaminated two Latin words. Why? It is a good verbal creation. At that moment one spoke Latin, so it passed by way of Latin, he said: The being of things is the Possest‚. it means nothing if you haven’t done Latin, I am going to explain. Possest: it doesn't exist as a word, it is an inexistent word, he created it, this word, the Possest. It is a very pretty word, it is a pretty word for Latin. It is an awful barbarism, this word is awful. But philosophically is beautiful, it is a success. When one creates a word it is necessary that [xxxx xxxx] there are disasters, nothing is determined in advance.

Possest is made of two terms in Latin, posse‚ which is the infinitive of the verb to be able to(pouvoir), and est is the third person of the verb to be (être) in the present indicative, he is‚ (il est). Posse and est, he contaminates the two and it gives Possest. And what is the Possest ? The Possest is precisely the identity of the power (puissance) and of the act by which I define [xxxx xxxx]. So I would not define something by its essence, what it is, I would define it by this barbaric definition, its Possest : what it can do. Literally: what it can actually do.

Power (puissance) or Possest‚
Good. What does this mean? It means that things are powers (puissances). It is not only that they have power, it is that they come down to the power that they have, as much in action as in passion. So if you compare two things, they can‚t be the same thing, but power is a quantity. You will have, thanks to this very special quantity, but you understand the problem that this causes, power is a quantity, okay, but it is not a quantity like length. Is it a quantity like force? Does this mean that the strongest wins? Very doubtful. First of all, it will be necessary to define the quantities that we call forces. They are not quantities as we know them, they are not quantities whose status is simple. I know that they are not qualities, that I know. Power (puissance) is not a quality, but neither are they so-called extensive quantities. Then even if they are intensive quantities, it is a very special quantitative scale, an intensive scale. This would mean: things have more or less intensity, it would be the intensity of the thing which would be, which would replace its essence, which would define the thing in itself, it would be its intensity. You understand perhaps the link to Ontology. The more intense a thing is, [the] more precisely is that intensity its relation to being: the intensity of the thing is its relation with being. Can we say all this? It is going to occupy us for a long time.

Before getting into it, you see which misunderstanding we are trying to avoid.

Question: on intensity and the thing (inaudible).

Gilles: The question is not what we believe, the question is how we try to get by in this world of powers. When I said intensity, if it is not that, it doesn’t do anything since it was already determined, this type of quantity. It is not that. We are here once again to evaluate how it could be important to undertake a discourse on power (puissance)? Given the misunderstandings that we are trying to avoid in every way, it is to understand this as if Spinoza told us, and Nietzsche afterwards, what things will is power. Evidently if the formula power is essence‚ doesn’t even mean, if there is something that this formula doesn't mean, one could translate it by the formula: what each wants is power‚. No what each wants is power‚ is a formula which doesn't have anything to do with this. Firstly it is a triviality, secondly it is a thing which is evidently false, thirdly this is surely not what Spinoza means. It is not what Spinoza means because it is stupid and Spinoza does not want to say silly things. It is not: Ha!, everyone, from stones to men, by way of the animals, they want more and more power (puissance), they want power (pouvoir). No it is not that! We know that it is not that since it doesn't mean that power (puissance) is the object of the will. No. So we know this at least, it is consoling. But I would like to insist, once again I appeal to your feeling of the evaluation of importance, in what the philosophers have said to us. I would like to try to develop why this history is very very important, this conversion where things (?) are no longer defined by a qualitative essence, man as reasonable animal, but are defined by a quantifiable power (puissance). I am far from knowing what this quantifiable power is, but I will just try to arrive there by passing via this kind of dreaming of what is important, practically. Practically, does that change something? Yes, you must already feel that practically it changes a lot of things. If I’m interested in what something can do, in what the thing can do, it is very different from those who are interested in what is the essence of the thing. I don't regard, it is not really the same manner of being in the world. But I would like to try to show it by, precisely, a precise moment in the history of the thought.

Classical Natural Right
There I open a parenthesis, but always in this vision: what is this history of power (puissance) and of defining things by power (puissance). I say: there was a very important moment, a very important tradition, where it is very difficult, historically, to get one‚s bearings, if you don't have some schemas and reference marks, some points of recognition. It is a history which concerns natural right, and this history concerning natural right, it is necessary that you understand this: today this appears to us at first glance very out of date, as much juridically as politically. The theories of natural right, in the manuals of law, or in the manuals of sociology, we always see a chapter on natural right, and we treat it as a theory which lasted until Rousseau, including Rousseau, up until the 18th century, but today no one is interested in it, in the problem of natural right. This is not false, but at the same time I would like you to feel that it was too scholarly a vision, it is terrible we bypass things and that is why people are really battered theoretically, we bypass everything that is important in an historic question.

I am saying this, and you are going to see why I am saying it now and how it is really at the heart of the stage where I am. I am saying: for a very long time there has been a theory of natural right, which consists of what? Finally it seems important to me historically because it was the compilation of most of the traditions of Antiquity and the point of confrontation of Christianity with the traditions of Antiquity. In this respect there are two important names in relation to the classical conception of natural right: on the one hand Cicero who recorded in antiquity all the traditions on the subject: Platonic, Aristotelian and Stoic. He gives a kind of presentation of natural right in Antiquity which is going to have an extreme importance. It is in Cicero that the Christian philosophers, the Christian jurists, will take (more than other authors), it is above all in Cicero that this kind of adaptation to Christianity of natural right, notably in Saint Thomas, will be made. So there we will have a kind of historical lineage that I am going to call for convenience, so that you will find it again there, the lineage of classical natural right, Antiquity-Christianity.

Now, what do they call natural right?

On the whole, I would say that, in this whole conception, natural right, that which constitutes natural right is that which conforms to the essence. I would almost say that there are several propositions, in this classical theory of natural right. I would just like you to retain them, because when I return to power‚(puissance) I would like you to have in mind these four propositions. Four basic propositions which are the basis of this conception of classical natural right.

First proposition: a thing is defined by its essence. Natural right is therefore that which conforms to the essence of something. The essence of man is: reasonable animal. This has defined his natural right. What‚s more, in effect, to be reasonable‚ is the law of his nature. The law of nature intervenes here. There is the first proposition; thus preference is given to the essences.

Second proposition, in this classical theory: from now on, you understand, natural right can not refer, and it is striking that for most of the authors of Antiquity it is very much like this, natural right doesn't refer to a state which would be supposed to precede society. The state of nature is not a pre-social state, certainly not, it could not be. The state of nature is the state that conforms to the essence in a good society. What do we call a good society? We will call a good society, a society where man can realise his essence. So the state of nature is not before the social state, the state of nature it is the state that conforms to the essence in the best possible society, that is the most apt to realise the essence. There is the second proposition of classical natural right.

Third proposition of classical natural right, they emanate from it: what is first is duty: we have rights only insofar as we have duties. It is very politically practical, all this. It is duties. Indeed, what is duty? Here, there is a term, there is a concept of Cicero in Latin, which is very difficult to translate and which indicates this idea of functional duty, the duties of function. It is the term officium‚. One of the most important books of Cicero from the point of view of natural right is a book entitled De officiis‚ On the Subject of the functional duties‚.

And why is it this that is first, duty in existence? It is because duty is precisely the conditions under which I can best realise the essence, i.e. to have a life in conformity with the essence, in the best possible society.

Fourth proposition: there follows a practical rule which will have a great political importance. We could summarize it under the title: the competence of the sage. What is the sage? It is somebody who is singularly competent in the research that relates to the essence, and all that follows from it. The sage is the one who knows what the essence is. Thus there is a principle of competence of the sage because it is the sage who tells us what our essence is, what is the best society, i.e. the society most capable of realizing the essence, and what are our functional duties, our officia‚, i.e. under which conditions we can realise the essence. All this is the competence of the sage. And to the question: to what does the classical sage lay claim? One must reply that the classical sage claims to determine what the essence is, and consequently all kinds of practical tasks follow from this. Hence the political claims of the sage. Therefore, if I summarize this classical conception of natural right, as a result you understand why Christianity will be very interested by this ancient conception of natural right. It will integrate it into what it will call natural theology, making it one of its fundamental parts.

The four propositions are immediately reconciled with Christianity. First proposition: things are defined and define their rights according to their essence. Second proposition: the law of nature is not pre-social, it is in the best possible society. It is life in conformity with the essence in the best possible society. Third proposition: what is first are duties over rights, because duties are the conditions under which you realise the essence. Fourth proposition: consequently, there is the competence of somebody superior, whether this is the church, the prince or the sage. There is a knowledge (savoir) of the essences. Thus the man who knows the essences will be capable of telling us at the same time how to conduct ourselves in life. Conducting oneself in life will be answerable to a knowledge, in the name of which I could say if it is good or bad. There will be thus a man of good, in whatever way it is determined, as man of God or man of wisdom, who will have a competence.

Remember these four propositions well.

Imagine a kind of thunder clap, a guy arrives and says: no, no, no, and in a sense it is the very opposite. Only the spirit of contradiction never works. It is necessary to have reasons, even secret ones, it is necessary to have the most important reasons in order to reverse a theory. One day somebody comes along who is going to make a scandal in the domain of thought. It is Hobbes. He had a very bad reputation. Spinoza read him a lot.

Natural Right according to Hobbes
And here is what Hobbes tells us: first proposition of Hobbes: it is not that. He says that things are not defined by an essence, they are defined by a power (puissance). Thus natural right is not what is in conformity with the essence of the thing, it is everything that the thing can do. And in the right of something, animal or man, everything that it can do. And in its right everything that it can do. It is at this time that the great propositions of the type, but the large fish eat the small ones start. It is its right of nature. You come across a proposition of this type, you see that it is signed Hobbes, it is in natural right that large fish eat small ones. You risk bypassing it, but you can understand nothing if you say: Ah Good! it is like that. By saying that it is in the natural right of large fish to eat small ones, Hobbes launches a kind of provocation that is enormous since what we‚ve just called natural right was in conformity with the essence, and thus the set of actions that were permitted in the name of the essence. Here, permit‚ takes on a very different sense: Hobbes announces to us that everything that we can do is permitted. Everything that you can do is permitted, this is natural right. It is a simple idea, but it is an idea that is overwhelming. From where is it coming? He calls that natural right. Everyone from time immemorial knew that large fish ate small ones, never has anybody called that natural right, Why? Because we reserved the word natural right for a completely different thing: moral action that conforms to the essence. Hobbes comes along and says: natural right equals power, therefore what you can do is your natural right. In my natural right is everything that I can do.

Second proposition: consequently, the state of nature is distinguished from the social state, and theoretically precedes it. Why? Hobbes hastens to say it: in the social state, there are prohibitions, there are defenses, there are things that I can do but it is defended. That means that it is not natural right, it is social right. It is in your natural right to kill your neighbor, but it is not in your social right. In other words, the natural right which is identical to power (puissance) is necessarily, and refers to, a state which is not the social state. Hence, at that moment, the promotion of the idea that a state of nature is distinguished from the social state. In the state of nature, everything that I can do is permitted. The natural law is that there is nothing to defend from what I can do. The state of nature thus precedes the social state. Already at the level of this second proposition, we understand nothing at all. We believe to have settled all that by saying is there a state of nature; they believed that there was a state of nature, those who said that. Nothing at all, they believe nothing in this respect. They say that logically, the concept of the state of nature is prior to the social state. They do not say that this state existed. If the right of nature is everything that there is in the power (puissance) of a being, we will define the state of nature as being the zone of this power. It is its natural right. It is thus instinct of the social state since the social state comprises and is defined by the defenses that bear upon something that I can do. Much more, if I am defended it is because I can do it. It is in this that you recognize a social defense. Therefore, the state of nature is first compared to the social state from the conceptual point of view. What does this mean? Nobody is born social. Social by agreement, perhaps we become it. And the problem of politics will be: how to make it so that men become social? But nobody is born social. That means that you can only think society as a product of becoming. And right is the operation of becoming social.

And in the same way, nobody is born reasonable. For this reason these authors are so opposed to a Christian theme to which Christianity equally held, namely the theme that is known in Christianity under the name of the Adamic tradition. The Adamic tradition is the tradition according to which Adam was perfect before sin. The first man was perfect and sin makes him lose perfection. This Adamic tradition is philosophically significant: Christian natural right is very well reconciled with the Adamic tradition. Adam, before sin, is man in conformity with the essence, he is reasonable. It is sin, i.e. the adventures of existence, that make him lose the essence, his first perfection. All of this is in conformity with the theory of classical natural right. Just as nobody is born social, nobody is born reasonable. Reasonable is like social, it is a becoming. And the problem of ethics will perhaps be how to make it so that man becomes reasonable, but not at all how to make it so that a man‚s essence, which would be reasonable, is realised. It is very different if you pose the question like this or like that, you go in very different directions. Hobbes‚ second proposition will be: the state of nature is pre-social, i.e. man is not born social, he becomes it.

Third proposition: if what is first is the state of nature, or if what is first is right‚, this is similar since in the state of nature, everything that I can do is my right. Consequently, what is first is right‚. Consequently, duties will only be secondary obligations tending to limit the rights for the becoming social of man. It will be necessary to limit rights so that man becomes social, but what is first is right‚. Duty is relative to right, whereas, in the classical theory of natural right, it is just the opposite, right was just relative to duty. What was first was the officium.

Fourth proposition: if my right is my power, if rights are first in relation to duties, if duties are only the operation by which rights are induced to limit themselves so that men become social, all kinds of questions are put between brackets. Why do they have to become social? Is it interesting to become social? All kinds of questions that did not arise at all.

From the point of view of natural right, Hobbes says, and Spinoza will take all of this up again but from the point of view of natural right, the most reasonable man in the world and the most complete madman are strictly the same. Why is there an absolute equality of the sage and the fool? It is a funny idea. It is a very baroque world. The point of the view of natural right is: my right equals my power, the madman is the one who does what is in his power, exactly as the reasonable man is the one who does what is in his. They are not saying idiotic things, they are not saying that the madman and the reasonable man are similar, they are saying that there is no difference between the reasonable man and the madman from the point of view of natural right. Why? Because each one does everything that he can. The identity of right and power ensures the equality, the identity of all beings on the quantitative scale. Of course, there will be a difference between the reasonable man and the madman, but in the civil state, in the social state, not from the point of view of natural right. They are in the process of wearing down, of undermining the whole principle of the competent sage or the competence of somebody superior. And that, politically, is very important.

Nobody is competent for me. There it is. There is the great idea that will animate the Ethics as the anti-system of Judgement. In a certain manner nobody can do anything for me, but nobody can be competent for me. Feel! What does this mean? It would be necessary to put it all in this sentence nobody is competent for me!‚ They so much wanted to judge in my place. There is also a discovery filled with wonder: Ha, it is fantastic, but nobody can know, nobody can know for me. Is this completely true? In a certain way it is not completely true! Perhaps there are competences. But, feel finally what there could be that is strange in these propositions... Indeed, this whole new theory of natural right, equally powerful natural right , what is first is right, it is not duty, leads to something: there is no competence of the wise, nobody is competent for myself. Consequently if the society is formed, it can only be, in one way or another, by the consent of those which take part in it, and not because the wise one would tell me the best way of realising the essence. Now, evidently, the substitution of a principle of consent for the principle of competence, has a fundamental importance for all of politics. Therefore, you see, what I tried to make is just a table of propositions, four propositions against four propositions, and I am simply saying that, in the propositions of the classical theory of natural right, Cicéro-Saint Thomas, you have the juridical development of a moral vision of the world, and, in the other case, the conception which finds its starting point with Hobbes, you have the development and all the seeds of a juridical conception of Ethics: beings are defined by their power.

If I’ve made this whole long parentheses, it has been to show that the formula beings are defined by their power and not by an essence‚ had political, juridical , consequences which we are just in the process of anticipating. Now, I just add, to finish with this theme, that Spinoza takes up this whole conception of natural Right in Hobbes. He will change things, he will change relatively significant things, he will not have the same political conceptions as those of Hobbes. But on this same point of natural right he declares himself to be draw ing from and to be a disciple of Hobbes. You see that, there, in Hobbes, he found the juridical confirmation of an idea that he himself formed on the other hand , him Spinoza, namely an astonishing confirmation of the idea according to which the essence of things was nothing other than their power, and it is that which is interesting in the idea of natural right. And I add, to be completely honest historically, that never does it emerge like that in one blow, it would be possible to seek, already, in antiquity, a current, but a very partial, very timid current, where a conception like this of natural right equals power would be formed already in antiquity, but it will be stifled . You find it in certain sophists and certain philosophers called Cynics , but its modern explosion will be with Hobbes and Spinoza.

For the moment I have not even explained, I specified what could well be called existing things distinguishing themselves from a quantitative point of view. That means exactly that existing things are not defined by an essence, but by power and they have more or less power. Their right will be the power of each one, the right of each one will be the power of each one, they have more or less power. There is thus a quantitative scale of beings from the point of view of power.

The qualitative polarity of modes of existence
It will now be necessary to pass to the second thing, namely the qualitative polarity of modes of existence and to see if the one follows from the others. The ensemble will give us a coherent vision, or will give us the beginnings of a coherent vision of what is called an Ethics.

So you see why you are not beings from the point of view of Spinoza, you are ways of being, which is understood: if each one is defined by what it can do. It is very curious: you are not defined by an essence, or rather your essence is identical to that which you can do, i.e. you are a degree on a scale of powers (puissances). If each one among us is a degree on a scale of power, then you will say to me: there are some who are better, or not. Let’s leave that to the side. For the moment we don’t know. But if it is like this, you don’t have an essence or you only have an essence identical to your power, i.e. you are a degree on this scale. Consequently you are indeed ways of being. The ways of being will be, precisely, this kind of existing thing, existence quantified according to power, according to the degree of power which defines it. You are quantifiers. You are not quantities, or rather you are very special quantities, each one of us is a quantity, but of what type? It is a very very curious vision of the world, very new: to see people as quantities, as packages of power, it is necessary to live it. It is necessary to live it if that says anything to you.

Hence the other question: but at the same time, these same authors, for example Spinoza, will not cease telling us that there are on the whole two modes of existence. And no matter what you do you are led to choose between the two modes of existence. You exist in such a way that you exist sometimes in one such mode, sometimes in another such mode, and the Ethics will be the exposé of these modes of existence. There this is no longer the quantitative scale of power, it is the polarity of distinct modes of existence. How does he pass from the first idea to the second, and what is it he wants to say to us with the second? There are modes of existence which are distinguished as poles of existence. Could you open the windows a little.... You don’t ask what it is worth , to do something or to undergo something is to exist in a certain way. You don’t ask what it is worth , but you ask what mode of existence it implies.

It is what Nietzsche also said with his story of the Eternal return, he said: it is not difficult to know if something is good or not, this question is not very complicated; it is not an affair of morals. He said make the following test, which would only be in your head. Do you see yourselves doing it an infinite number of times. It is a good criterion. You see it is the criterion of the mode of existence. Whatever I do, whatever I say, could I make of it a mode of existence? If I couldn‚t it is ugly, it is evil , it is bad . If I can, then yes! You see that everything changes, it is not morality . In what sense? I say to the alcoholic, for example, I say to him: you like to drink? You want to drink? Good, very well. If you drink, drink in such a way that with each time you drink, you would be ready to drink, redrink, redrink an infinite number of times. Of course at your own rhythm. It is not necessary to rush : at your own rhythm! At that moment there, at least, you agree with yourself. So people are much less shitty to you when they agree with themselves. What it is necessary to fear above all in the life, are the people who do not agree with themselves, this Spinoza said admirably. The venom of neurosis, that’s it! The propagation of neurosis, I propagate to you my evil , it is terrible, terrible, it is above all those who are not in agreement with themselves. They are vampires. Whereas the alcoholic who drinks, on the perpetual mode of: ha, it is the last time, it is the last glass! One more time, or once again. That is a bad mode of existence. If you do something, do it as if you must do it a million times. If you are not able to do it like that, do something else. It is Nietzsche who said this, it is not me, all objections are to be addressed to Nietzsche. That can work, that can not work. I do not know why we are discussing all this, what I said. All that is not an affair of truth, it touches on what it can touch on, it is an affair of the practice of living. There are people who live like that.

What does Spinoza try to say to us? It is very curious, I would say that the whole of part four of the Ethics develops above all the idea of the polar modes of existence. And in what do you recognize it in Spinoza. What do you recognize it in ? For the moment I‚m saying things extremely simply for the moment, what do you recognize it in . You recognize it in a certain tone of Spinoza’s , when he speaks, from time to time, of the strong, he says in Latin: the strong man, or the free man. Or, on the contrary, he says the slave or the impotent. There you recognize a style which belongs to the Ethics. He does not speak about the malicious or the good man. The malicious and the good man is the man related to values according to his essence. But the way in which Spinoza speaks, you feel that it is another tone. It is like for musical instruments. It is necessary to feel the tone of people. It is another tone; he tells you: there is what makes the strong man, there is what you recognize as a strong and free man. Does that mean a sturdy type of man. Of course not! A strong man can be far from strong from a certain point of view, he can even be sick, he can be whatever you want. So, what is this trick of the strong man? It is a way of life, it is a mode of existence that is opposed to the mode of existence which he calls the slave or the impotent. What do they mean, these styles of life? It is a life style (style de vie). There will be a life style: to live as a slave, to live as impotent. And then another type of life. Once again, what is it? Once again this polarity of the modes, under the form, and under the two poles: the strong or the powerful, and the impotent or the slave, that must say something to us.

Let’s continue to go into the night, there, and examine according to the texts what Spinoza calls the slave or the impotent. It is curious. One realizes that what he calls the slave or the impotent, it is there that the resemblances ˜ and I don’t believe I’m forcing the texts ˜ the resemblances to Nietzsche are fundamental, because Nietzsche will not do anything other than to distinguish these two polar modes of existence and to distribute them in very much the same manner. Because we realise with astonishment that what Spinoza calls the impotent ... a mode of existence, what is it? The impotent are the slaves. Good. But what does the slaves mean? Slaves of social conditions? We feel, well, that the answer is no! It is a way of life. There are thus people who are not at all socially slaves, but they live like slaves! Slavery as a way of life and not as social status. Thus there are slaves. But on the same side, the impotent or the slaves, he puts who ? It will become more significant for us: he puts tyrants. Tyrants! And oddly, there will be plenty of stories, the priests. The tyrant, the priest and the slave. Nietzsche will not say more. In his more violent texts, Nietzsche will not say more, Nietzsche will make the trinity: the tyrant, the priest and the slave. It’s Odd that it is already literally so in Spinoza. And what is there in common between a tyrant who has power (pouvoir), a slave who does not have power, and a priest who seems only to have spiritual power. And what is there in common? And how are they impotent since, on the contrary, they seem to be, at least for the tyrant and the priest, men of power. One political power, and the other spiritual power. If we feel, it is that which I call to sort things out by feelings.

We feel that there is quite a common point. And when we read Spinoza, text after text, we are confirmed on this common point. It is almost like a riddle: for Spinoza what is there in common between a tyrant who has political power, a slave, and a priest who exercises a spiritual power? This something in common is what is going to make Spinoza say: but they are impotent; it is that, in a certain way , they need to sadden life! Curious, this idea. Nietzsche will also say things like this: they need to make sadness reign! He feels it, he feels it very deeply: they need to make sadness reign because the power that they have can only be founded on sadness. And Spinoza makes a very strange portrait of the tyrant, by explaining that the tyrant is someone who needs, above all, the sadness of his subjects, because there is no terror that doesn’t have as its basis a kind of collective sadness. The priest, perhaps for completely other reasons, has need of the sadness of man on his own condition. And when he laughs, it is not more reassuring. The tyrant could laugh, and the favourites, the counselors of the tyrant could also laugh too. It is a bad laugh, and why is it a bad laugh? Not because of its quality, Spinoza would not say that, it is precisely a laughter which has for its object only sadness and the communication of sadness. What does this mean? It is bizarre. The priest, according to Spinoza, essentially needs an action motivated by remorse. Introducing remorse. It is a culture of sadness. Whatever the ends, Spinoza will say that at that moment the ends are equal to us. He judges only that: cultivating sadness. The tyrant for his political power needs to cultivate sadness, the priest needs to cultivate sadness as far as Spinoza can see, who has the experience of the Jewish priest, the Catholic priest and the Protestant priest.

Now Nietzsche throws out a grand sentence by saying: I am the first to do a psychology of the priest, he said in some pages which are very comical, and to introduce this topic into philosophy, he will define the operation of the priest precisely by what he will call the bad conscience, that is, this same culture of sadness. He will say that it is saddening life, it is always about saddening life!, somewhere. And, indeed why? Because it involves judging life. Now, you will not judge life.You won’t submit it to judgment. Life is not the object of judgment, life is not able to be judged, the only way in which you could pass judgment on it is first of all to inject it with sadness. And of course we laugh, I mean that the tyrant can laugh, the priest laughs, but, Spinoza said, in a page that I find very beautiful, his laughter is that of the satyr, and the laughter of the satyr is a bad laugh, why? Because it is laughter which communicates sadness; One can mock nature, the laughter of the satyr is when I mock men. I‚m being ironic. The kind of intoxicating irony, I mock men. The satyr is another way of saying that human nature is miserable. Ha see, what misery, human nature! It is the proposition of moral judgment: Ha, what misery is human nature. It could be the object of a sermon or the object of a satyr. And Spinoza, in some very beautiful texts, said: what I’ve just called an Ethics is the opposite of the satyr.

And yet there are some very comical pages in Spinoza’s Ethics, but it is not at all the same laughter. When Spinoza laughs, it is in the mode: Ho, look at this here, of what is he capable! Ho ho, and this, we‚ve never seen that! It could be an atrocious villainy, was it necessary to do it, to go that far. It is never the Satyr‚s laughter, it is never: see how miserable our nature is! It is not the laughter of irony. It is a completely different type of laughter. I would say that it is much more Jewish humor. It is very Spinozist, it is go on, yet another step, I would never have believed that one could have done it! It is a very particular kind of laughter and Spinoza is one of the most cheerful authors in the world. I believe, indeed, that all this that he hates is what religion has conceived as the satyr of human nature. The tyrant, the man of religion, they are satyrs, that is to say that, above all they denounce human nature as miserable since this involves , above all, passing judgment on it. And, consequently, there is a complicity, and this is Spinoza‚s intuition: there is a complicity of the tyrant, the slave, and the priest. Why? Because the slave is the one who feels better the more things go badly. The worse it goes , the happier he is. This is the mode of existence of the slave! For the slave, whatever the situation, it is always necessary that he sees the awful side. The nasty stuff there. There are people who have a genius for this: these are the slaves. It could be a painting, it could be a scene in the street, there are people who have a genius for it. There is a genius of the slave and at the same time, it is the buffoon. The slave and the buffoon. Dostoyevsky wrote some very profound pages on the unity of the slave and the buffoon, and of the tyrant, these are tyrannical types, they cling, they do not let you go. They don't stop shoving your nose into whatever shit. They are not happy, they always have to degrade things. It is not that the things are necessarily high, but it is always necessary that they degrade, it is always too high. They must always find a small disgrace, a disgrace in the disgrace, there they become roses of joy, the more repulsive it is the happier they are. They live only like this; this is the slave!

And it is also the man of remorse and it is also the satyr man, it is all that and it is to this that Spinoza opposes the conception of a strong man a powerful man, whose laughter is not the same. It is a kind of very benevolent laughter, the laughter of the man said to be free or strong. He says : if this is what you want, then go on, it is funny, yes it is funny! It is the opposite of the satyr. It is Ethical laughter!



Intervention of Comtesse: (inaudible on the cassette).

Gilles: I feel coming between you and me still a difference. You tend very quickly to stress an authentically Spinozist concept, that of the tendency to persevere in being. The last time, you spoke to me about the conatus, i.e. the tendency to persevere in being, and you asked me: what don't you do it? I responded that for the moment I cannot introduce it because, in my reading, I am stressing other Spinozist concepts, and the tendency to persevere in being, I will derive it from other concepts which are for me the essential concepts, those of power (puissance) and affect. Today, you return to the same theme. There is not even room for a discussion, you would propose another reading, i.e. a differently accentuated reading. As for the problem of the reasonable man and the insane man, I will respond exactly thus: what distinguishes the insane person and the reasonable one according to Spinoza, and conversely at the same time, there is: what doesn't distinguish them? From which point of view can they not be distinguished, from which point of view do they have to be distinguished? I would say, for my reading, that Spinoza‚s response is very rigorous. If I summarize Spinoza‚s response, it seems to me that this summary would be this: from a certain point of view, there is no reason to make a distinction between the reasonable man and the insane person. From another point of view, there is a reason to make a distinction.
Firstly, from the point of view of power, there is no reason to introduce a distinction between the reasonable man and the insane man. What does that mean? Does that mean that they have the same power? No, it doesn‚t mean that they have the same power, but it means that each one, as much as there is in him, realises or exercises his power. I.e. each one, as much as there is in him, endeavours [s‚efforce] to persevere in his being. Therefore, from the point of view of power, insofar as each, according to natural right, endeavours to persevere in his being, i.e. exercise his power ˜ you see I always put Œeffort‚ between brackets ˜ it is not that he tries to persevere, in any way, he perseveres in his being as much as there is in him, this is why I do not like the idea of conatus, the idea of effort, which does not translate Spinoza‚s thought because what it calls an effort to persevere in being is the fact that I exercise my power at each moment, as much as there is in me. It is not an effort, but from the point of view of power, therefore, I can not at all say what each one is worth, because each one would have the same power, in effect the power of the insane man is not the same as that of the reasonable one, but what there is in common between the two is that, whatever the power, each exercises his own. Therefore, from this point of view, I would not say that the reasonable man is better than the insane one. I cannot, I have no way of saying that: each has a power, each exercises as much power as there is in him. It is natural right, it is the world of nature. From this point of view, I could not establish any difference in quality between the reasonable man and the insane one.

But from another point of view, I know very well that the reasonable man is Œbetter‚ than the insane one. Better, what does that mean? More powerful, in the Spinozist sense of the word. Therefore, from this second point of view, I must make and I do make a distinction between the reasonable man and the insane one. What is this point of view? My response, according to Spinoza, would be exactly this: from the point of view of power, you have no reason to distinguish the reasonable man and the insane one, but from the other point of view, namely that of the affects, you distinguish the reasonable man and the insane one. From where does this other point of view come? You remember that power is always actual, it is always exercised. It is the affects that exercise them. The affects are the exercises of power, what I experience in action or passion, it is this which exercises my power, at every moment. If the reasonable man and the insane one are distinguished, it is not by means of power, each one realises his power, it is by means of the affects. The affects of the reasonable man are not the same as those of the insane one. Hence the whole problem of reason will be converted by Spinoza into a special case of the more general problem of the affects. Reason indicates a certain type of affect. That is very new.
To say that reason is not going to be defined by ideas, of course, it will also be defined by ideas. There is a practical reason that consists in a certain type of affect, in a certain way of being affected. That poses a very practical problem of reason. What does it mean to be reasonable, at that moment? Inevitably reason is an ensemble of affects, for the simple reason that it is precisely the forms under which power is exercised in such and such conditions. Therefore, to the question that has just been posed by Comtesse, my response is relatively strict; in effect, what difference is there between a reasonable man and the insane one? From a certain point of view, none, that is the point of view of power. From another point of view, enormous difference, from the point of view of the affects which exercise power.

Intervention of Comtesse.

Gilles: You note a difference between Spinoza and Hobbes and you are quite right. If I summarize it, the difference is this: for the one as for the other, Spinoza and Hobbes, one is careful to leave the state of nature by a contract. But in the case of Hobbes, it is in effect a contract by which I give up my right of nature. I‚ll specify because it is more complicated: if it is true that I give up my natural right, then on the other hand, the sovereign himself does not also give up his. Therefore, in a certain way, the right of nature is preserved.
For Spinoza, on the contrary, in the contract I do not give up my right of nature, and there is Spinoza‚s famous formula given in a letter: I preserve the right of nature even in the civil state. This famous formula of Spinoza clearly means, for any reader of the era, that on this point, I break with Hobbes. In a certain way, he also preserved natural right in the civil state, but only to the advantage of the sovereign. I say that too quickly.
Spinoza, on the whole, is a disciple of Hobbes. Why? Because on two general but fundamental points, he entirely follows the Hobbesian revolution, and I believe that Spinoza‚s political philosophy would have been impossible without the kind of intervention that Hobbes had introduced into political philosophy. What is this very, very important double intervention, this extraordinary innovation?
It is, first innovation, to have conceived the state of nature and natural right in a way that broke entirely with the Ciceronian tradition. Now, on this point, Spinoza entirely ratifies Hobbes‚ revolution. Second point: consequently, to have substituted the idea of a pact of consent as the foundation of the civil state for the relation of competence such as it was in traditional philosophy, from Plato to Saint Thomas. Now, on these two fundamental points, the civil state can only refer to a pact of consent and not to a relation of competence where there would be a superiority of the sage, and the whole conception, in addition, of the state of nature and of natural right as power and exercise of power, these two fundamental points belong to Hobbes. It is according to these two fundamental points that I would say that the obvious difference that Comtesse has just signaled between Spinoza and Hobbes, presumes and can only be inscribed in one preliminary resemblance, a resemblance by which Spinoza follows the two fundamental principles of Hobbes. This then becomes a balancing of accounts between them, but within these new presuppositions introduced into political philosophy by Hobbes.
We will be led to speak about Spinoza‚s political conception this year from the point of view of research that we are doing on Ontology: in what sense can Ontology entail or must it entail a political philosophy? Do not forget that there is a whole political path of Spinoza, I‚m going very quickly. A very fascinating political path because we cannot even read one political book of Spinoza‚s philosophy without understanding what problems it poses, and what political problems he lived through. The Netherlands in the era of Spinoza was not simple and all Spinoza‚s political writings are very connected to this situation. It is not by chance that Spinoza wrote two books on political philosophy, one the Theologico-Political Treatise the other the Political Treatise, and that, between the two, enough things happened such that Spinoza evolved. The Netherlands in that era was torn between two tendencies. There was the tendency of the House of Orange, and then there was the liberal tendency of the De Witt brothers. Now the De Witt brothers, under very obscure conditions, had won at one moment. The House of Orange was not nothing: this put into play the relations of foreign policy, relations with Spain, war or peace. The De Witt brothers were basically pacifists. This put into play the economic structure, the House of Orange supported the large companies, the brothers were very hostile to the large companies. This opposition stirred everything up. Now the De Witt brothers were assassinated in absolutely horrible circumstances. Spinoza felt this as really the last moment in which he could no longer write, this could also happen to him. The De Witt brothers‚ entourage protected Spinoza. This dealt him a blow. The difference in political tone between the Theologico-Political Treatise and the Political Treatise is explained because, between the two, there was the assassination, and Spinoza no longer believed in what he had said before, in the liberal monarchy.
His political problem arises in a very beautiful, still very current, way; yes, there is only a political problem that it would be necessary to try to understand, to make ethics into politics. To understand what? To understand why people fight for their slavery. They seem to be so content to be slaves, that they will do anything to remain slaves. How to explain such a thing? It fascinates him. Literally, how to explain that people don't revolt? But at the same time, revolt or revolution, you will never find that in Spinoza. We‚re saying very silly things. At the same time, he made drawings. There is a reproduction of a drawing of his that is a very obscure thing. He had drawn himself in the form of a Neapolitan revolutionary who was well-known in that era. He had included his own head. It is odd. Why does he never speak about revolt or revolution? Is it because he is a moderate? Undoubtedly, he must be a moderate; but let us suppose that he is a moderate. But at that time, even the extremists hesitated to speak of revolution, even the leftists of the era. And Collegians who were against the church, these Catholics were near enough to what we would call today the Catholics of the extreme left. Why isn‚t revolution discussed? There is a silly thing that is said, even in the handbooks of history, that there was no English revolution. Everyone knows perfectly well that there was an English revolution, the formidable revolution of Cromwell. And Cromwell‚s revolution is an almost pure case of a revolution that was betrayed as soon as it was done.
The whole of the seventeenth century is full of reflections on how a revolution can not be betrayed. Revolution was always thought by revolutionaries in terms of how it is that such things are always betrayed. Now, the recent example for Spinoza‚s contemporaries is the revolution of Cromwell, who was the most fantastic traitor to the revolution that Cromwell himself had imposed. If you take, well after English Romanticism, it is a fantastic poetic and literary movement, but it is an intense political movement. The whole of English Romanticism is centered on the theme of the betrayed revolution. How to live on when the revolution has been betrayed and seems destined to be betrayed? The model that obsessed the great English Romantics was always Cromwell. Cromwell lived in that era as Stalin did today. Nobody speaks about revolution, not at all because they do not have an equivalent in mind, it is for a very different reason. They won‚t call that revolution because the revolution is Cromwell. Now, at the time of the Theologico-Political Treatise, Spinoza still believed in a liberal monarchy, on the whole. This is no longer true from the Political Treatise. The De Witt brothers were assassinated, compromise is no longer possible. Spinoza gives up publishing the Ethics, he knows that it‚s screwed. At that moment, it seems that Spinoza would have tended much more to think about the chances of a democracy. But the theme of democracy appears much more in the Political Treatise than in the Theologico-Political Treatise, which remained in the perspective of a liberal monarchy.
What would a democracy be at the level of the Netherlands? It is what was liquidated with the assassination of the De Witt brothers. Spinoza dies, as if symbolically, when he is at the chapter Œdemocracy‚. We will never know what he would have said.
There is a fundamental relation between Ontology and a certain style of politics. What this relation consists of, we don‚t yet know. What does a political philosophy which is placed in an ontological perspective consist of? Is it defined by the problem of the state? Not especially, because the others too. A philosophy of the One will also pass by way of the problem of the state. The real difference does not appear elsewhere between pure ontologies and philosophies of the One. Philosophies of the One are philosophies that fundamentally imply a hierarchy of existing things, hence the principle of consequence, hence the principle of emanation: from the One emanates Being, from Being emanates other things, etc. the hierarchies of the Neo-Platonists. Therefore, the problem of the state, they will encounter it when they encounter themselves? at the level of this problem: the institution of a political hierarchy. Among Neo-Platonists, there are hierarchies everywhere, there is a celestial hierarchy, a terrestrial hierarchy, and what the Neo-Platonists call hypostases are precisely the terms in the institution of a hierarchy.
What appears to me striking in a pure ontology is the point at which it repudiates the hierarchies. In effect, if there is no One superior to being, if being is said of everything that is and is said of everything that is in one and the same sense, this is what appeared to me to be the key ontological proposition: there is no unity superior to being and, consequently, being is said of everything that of which it is said, i.e. is said of everything that is, is said of all being [étant], in one and the same sense. It is the world of immanence. This world of ontological immanence is an essentially anti-hierarchical world. Of course, it is necessary to correct: these philosophers of ontology, we will say that evidently a practical hierarchy is needed, ontology does not lead to formulas which would be those of nihilism or non-being, of the type where everything is the same [tout se vaut]. And yet, in certain regards, everything is the same, from the point of view of an ontology, i.e. the point of view of being.
All being [étant] exercises as much being [être] as there is in it. That‚s all there is to it. It is anti-hierarchical thought. It is almost a kind of anarchy. There is an anarchy of beings in being. It is the basic intuition of ontology: all beings are the same [se valent]. The stone, the insane, the reasonable, the animal, from a certain point of view, from the point of view of Being [être], they are the same. Each is as much as there is in it, and being is said in one and the same sense of the stone, of the man, of the insane, of the reasonable. It is a very beautiful idea. It is a very savage kind of world.
With that, they encounter the political domain, but the way in which they will encounter the political domain depends precisely on this kind of intuition of equal being, of anti-hierarchical being. And the way in which they think the state is no longer the relation of somebody who commands and others who obey. In Hobbes, the political relation is the relation of somebody who commands and of somebody who obeys. This is the pure political relation. From the point of view of an ontology, it is not that. There, Spinoza did not go along with Hobbes at all. The problem of an ontology is, consequently, according to this: being is said of everything that is, this is how to be free. I.e. how to exercise its power under the best conditions. And the state, even more the civil state, i.e. the entire society is thought like this: the ensemble of conditions under which man can exercise his power in the best way. Thus it is not at all a relation of obedience. Obedience will come, moreover, it will have to be justified by what it inscribes in a system where society can mean only one thing, namely the best means for man of exercising his power. Obedience is second compared to this requirement. In a philosophy of the One, obedience is obviously first, i.e. the political relation is the relation of obedience, it is not the relation of the exercise of power.
We will find this problem again in Nietzsche: what is equal? What is equal is that each being, whatever it is, in every way exercises all that it can of its power, that, that makes all beings equal. But the powers are not equal. But each endeavours to persevere in its being, i.e. exercise its power. From this point of view, all beings are the same, they are all in being and being is equal. Being is also said of everything that is, but everything that is is not equal, i.e. does not have the same power. But being which is said of everything that is, that, that is equal. With that, it doesn't‚t prevent there being differences between beings. From the point of view of the difference between beings a whole idea of aristocracy can be established, namely there are the better ones.
If I try to summarize, understand where we were the last time. We posed a very precise problem, the problem which I have dealt with until now, which is this: what is the status, not of Being [être], but of being [étant], i.e. what is the status of Œwhat is‚ from the point of view of an ontology.
What is the status of the being [étant] or of what exists [existant] from the point of view of an ontology? I have tried to show that the two conceptions, that of the quantitative distinction between existing things, and the other point of view, that of the qualitative opposition between modes of existence, far from contradicting themselves, have been interlinked with one another the whole time.
This finishes the first category: what is an ontology, and how is it distinguished from philosophies which are not ontologies.
Second major category: what is the status of the being [étant] from the point of view of a pure ontology like Spinoza‚s?

Inaudible intervention

Gilles: You say that from the point of view of the hierarchy, what is first is difference and one goes from difference to identity. That is quite right, but I would just add: which type of difference is it about? Response: it is always finally a difference between Being [être] and something superior to being, since the hierarchy is going to be a difference in judgment. Therefore, judgment is done in the name of a superiority of the One over being. We can judge being precisely because there is an authority superior to being. Thus the hierarchy is inscribed as of this difference, since the hierarchy, even its foundation, is the transcendence of the One over being. And what you call difference is exactly this transcendence of the One over being. When you invoke Plato, difference is only first in Plato in a very precise sense, namely the One is more than being. Thus it is a hierarchical difference. Ontology goes from being [être] to beings [étants], i.e. it goes from the same, from what is, and only what is different, it goes therefore from being to the differences, it is not a hierarchical difference. All beings are also in Being.
In the Middle Ages, there is a very important school, it was given the name the School of Chartres; and the School of Chartres, they depend mostly on Duns Scotus, and they insist enormously on the Latin term "equality.‰ Equal being. They say all the time that being is fundamentally equal. That doesn‚t mean that existing things, or beings [étants], are equal. But being is equal for all, which means, in a certain way, that all beings are in being. Consequently, whatever the difference you achieve, since there is a non-difference of being, and there are differences between beings, these differences will not be conceived in a hierarchical way. Or, they will be conceived in a hierarchical way very, very secondarily, to catch up with, to reconcile the things. But in the first intuition, the difference is not hierarchical. Whereas in philosophies of the One difference is fundamentally hierarchical. I would say much more: in ontology, the difference between beings is quantitative and qualitative at the same time. Quantitative difference of powers, qualitative difference of modes of existence, but it is not hierarchical. Then, of course, they often speak as if there had been a hierarchy, they will say that the reasonable man is better than the malicious one, but better in what sense and why? It is for reasons of power and exercise of power, not for reasons of hierarchy.
I would like to pass to a third rubric which is connected at the second and which would come down to saying that if the Ethics - I defined as the two co-ordinates of the Ethics: the quantitative distinction from the point of view of power, the qualitative opposition from the point of view of the modes of existence. I tried to show last time how we passed perpetually from the one to the other. I would like to begin a third rubric, which is, from the point of view of the Ethics, how does the problem of evil arise. Because, once again, we have seen that this problem arose in an acute way, why? I remind you that I discussed the sense in which, from time immemorial, classical philosophy had set up this paradoxical proposition, by knowing very well that it was a paradox, namely evil is nothing. But precisely, evil is nothing, understand that there are at least two possible manners of speaking. These two manners are not reconciled at all. Because when I say evil is nothing, I could mean firstly one thing: evil is nothing because everything is Good. If I say everything is Good. If you write Good with a capital G, if you write it like that, you can comment on the formula word for word: there is being, good: The One is superior to being, and the superiority of the One over being makes being turn towards the One as being the Good. In other words, Œevil is nothing‚, means: inevitably evil is nothing since it is the Good superior to being which is the cause of being. In other words, the Good makes being. The Good is the One as the reason for being. The One is superior to being. Everything is Good means that it is the good that makes being what is. I am discussing Plato. You understand that Œevil is nothing‚ means that only the Good makes being, and correlatively: makes action. It was the argument of Plato: the malicious one is not voluntarily malicious since what the malicious one wants is the good, it is whatever good. I can thus say that evil is nothing, in the sense that only the Good makes being and makes action, therefore evil is nothing.
In a pure Ontology, where there is no One superior to being, I say evil is nothing, there is no evil, there is being. Okay. But that engages me with something completely new, it is that if evil is nothing, then the good is nothing either. It is thus for completely opposite reasons that I can say in both cases that evil is nothing. In one case, I say that evil is nothing because only the Good makes being and makes action, in the other case, I say that evil is nothing because the Good is nothing too, because there is only being. Now we have seen that this negation of the good, like that of evil, did not prevent Spinoza from making an ethics. How is an ethics made if there is neither good nor evil. From the same formula, in the same era, if you take the formula: Œevil is nothing‚, signed by Leibniz, and signed by Spinoza, they both say the same formula, Œevil is nothing‚, but it has two opposite senses. In Leibniz it derives from Plato, and in Spinoza, who makes a pure ontology, it becomes complicated.
Hence my problem: what is the status of evil from the point of view of ethics, i.e. from the whole status of beings, of existing things? We will return to the parts where ethics is really practical. We have an exceptional text of Spinoza: it is an exchange of eight letters, four each. A set of eight letters exchanged with a young man called Blyenberg. The sole object of this correspondence is evil. The young Blyenberg asks Spinoza to explain evil ?

(tape inaudible ... and end of the first part)





On the project of a pure ontology, how is it that Spinoza calls this pure ontology an Ethics? It would be by an accumulation of traits that we realize that it was [a pure ontology], although he calls it an Ethics. We saw the general atmosphere of this link between an Ontology and an Ethics with the suspicion that an ethics is something that has nothing to do with morality. And why do we have a suspicion of the link that makes this pure Ontology take the name of Ethics? We have seen it. Spinoza’s pure Ontology is presented as the absolutely infinite single position. Consequently, the beings (étants), this absolutely infinite single substance, is being. Being (être) as being. Consequently, the beings (étants) will not be Beings (êtres), they will be what Spinoza calls modes, the modes of absolutely infinite substance. And a mode is what? It is a manner of being. The beings (étants) or what exists (existants) are not Beings (êtres), there is Being only in the form of absolutely infinite substance. Consequently, we who are beings (étants), we who are what exists (existants), we will not be Beings (êtres), we will be manners of Being (être) of this substance. And if I ask myself what is the most immediate sense of the word ethics, in what way is it already other than morality, well, ethics is better known to us today under another name, the word ethology.

When one speaks of an ethology in connection with animals, or in connection with man, what is it a matter of? Ethology in the most rudimentary sense is a practical science, of what? A practical science of the manners of being. The manner of being is precisely the state of beings (étants), of what exists (existants), from the point of view of a pure ontology.

In what way is it already different from a morality? We are trying to compose a kind of landscape which would be the landscape of ontology. We are manners of Being in Being, that is the object of an ethics, i.e. an ethology. In a morality, on the contrary, what is it a matter of? There are two things which are fundamentally welded together. It is a matter of essence and values. A morality recalls us to essence, i.e. our essence, and which is recalled to us by values. It is not the point of view of Being. I do not believe that a morality can be made from the point of view of an ontology. Why? Because morality always implies something superior to Being; what is superior to Being is something which plays the role of the One, of the Good, it is the One superior to Being. Indeed, morality is the enterprise of judging not only all that is, but Being itself. Now one can only judge Being in the name of an authority higher than Being.

In what way, in a morality, is it a matter of essence and values? What is in question in a morality is our essence. What is our essence? In a morality it is always a matter of realising the essence. This implies that the essence is in a state where it is not necessarily realised, that implies that we have an essence. It is not obvious that there is an essence of man. But it is quite necessary for morality to speak and to give us orders in the name of an essence. If we are given orders in the name of an essence, it is because this essence is not realised by itself. It will be said that this essence is in man potentially (en puissance). What is the essence of man is potentially in man, from the point of view of a morality? It is well known, the essence of man is to be a reasonable animal. Aristotle: Man is a reasonable animal. The essence is what the thing is, reasonable animal is the essence of man. Even if man is in essence a reasonable animal, he does not cease to behave in an unreasonable way. How does that happen? It is because the essence of man, as such, is not necessarily realised. Why? Because man is not pure reason, and then there are accidents, he doesn’t cease being diverted. The whole classical conception of man consists in inviting him to agree with his essence because this essence is like a potentiality, which is not necessarily realised, and morality is the process of the realization of the human essence.

Now, how can this essence which is only potential, be realized? By morality. To say that it is to be realized by morality is to say that it must be taken for an end. The essence of man must be taken for an end by existing man. Therefore, to behave in a reasonable way, i.e. to carry out the essence is the task of morality. Now the essence taken as an end is value. Note that the moral vision of the world is made of essence. The essence is only potential, it is necessary to realise the essence, that will be done insofar as the essence is taken for an end, and the values ensure the realization of the essence. It is this ensemble which I would call morality.

In an ethical world, let us try to switch over, there is no longer any of this. What will they say to us in an Ethics? We will find nothing. It is another landscape. Spinoza very often speaks about essence, but for him, essence is never the essence of man. Essence is always a singular determination. There is the essence of this man, and of that man, there is no essence of man. He will himself say that the general essences or the abstract essences of the type the essence of man‚are confused ideas. There is no general idea in an Ethics. There is you, this one, that one, there are singularities. The word essence is quite likely to change sense. When he speaks about essence, what interests him is not the essence, what interests him is existence and what exists.

In other words, what is can only be put in relation to Being at the level of existence, and not at the level of essence.

At this level, there is already an existentialism in Spinoza. It is thus not a matter of an essence of man, in Spinoza, it is not the question of an essence of man that would only be potential and which morality would be assigned to realise, it is about something altogether different. You recognize an ethics in what he, who speaks to you about ethics, tells you of two things in one. He is interested in existing things (existants) in their singularity. Sometimes, he is going to tell you, between what exists there is a distinction, a quantitative difference in existence; what exists can be considered on a kind of quantitative scale according to which they are more or less... More or less what? We are going see. Not at all an essence common to several things, but a quantitative distinction of more and less between existing things, that is Ethics.

In addition, the same discourse of an ethics is pursued by saying that there is also a qualitative opposition between modes of existence. Two criteria of ethics, in other words, the quantitative distinction of existing things, and the qualitative opposition of modes of existence, the qualitative polarization of modes of existence, will be the two ways in which existing things are in being.

These are going to be the links of Ethics with Ontology. Existing things or the beings are in Being from two simultaneous points of view, from the point of view of a qualitative opposition of the modes of existence, and from the point of view of a quantitative scale of existing things. It is completely the world of immanence. Why?

It is the world of immanence because you see at which point it is different from the world of moral values such as I have just defined them, the moral values being precisely this kind of tension between the essence to be realized and the realization of the essence.

I would say that value is exactly the essence taken as an end.

That is the moral world. The completion of the moral world, one can say that it is indeed in Kant that a supposed human essence is taken for an end, in a kind of pure act.

Ethics is not that at all, they are like two absolutely different worlds. What can Spinoza have to say to the others. Nothing.

It would be a matter of showing all that concretely. In a morality, you always have the following operation: you do something, you say something, you judge it yourself. It is the system of judgement. Morality is the system of judgement. Of double judgement, you judge yourself and you are judged. Those who have the taste for morality are those who have the taste for judgement. Judging always implies an authority superior to Being, it always implies something superior to an ontology. It always implies one more than Being, the Good which makes Being and which makes action, it is the Good superior to Being, it is the One. Value expresses this authority superior to Being. Therefore, values are the fundamental element of the system of judgement. Therefore, you are always referred to this authority superior to Being for judging.

In an ethics, it is completely different, you do not judge. In a certain manner, you say: whatever you do, you will only ever have what you deserve. Somebody says or does something, you do not relate it to values. You ask yourself how is that possible? How is this possible in an internal way? In other words, you relate the thing or the statement to the mode of existence that it implies, that it envelops in itself. How must it be in order to say that? Which manner of Being does this imply? You seek the enveloped modes of existence, and not the transcendent values. It is the operation of immanence. (...)

The point of view of an ethics is: of what are you capable, what can you do? Hence a return to this sort of cry of Spinoza’s: what can a body do? We never know in advance what a body can do. We never know how we’re organized and how the modes of existence are enveloped in somebody.

Spinoza explains very well such and such a body, it is never whatever body, it is what you can do, you.

My hypothesis is that the discourse of ethics has two characteristics: it tells us that beings (étants) have a quantitative distinction of more and less, and in addition, it also tells us that the modes of existence have a qualitative polarity, roughly, there are two great modes of existence. What are they?

When it is suggested to us that, between you and me, between two persons, between a person and an animal, between an animal and a thing, there is ethically, that is ontologically, only a quantitative distinction, what quantity is involved? When it is suggested to us that what makes the most profound of our singularities is something quantitative, what does that really mean? Fichte and Schelling developed a very interesting theory of individuation that we sum up under the name quantitative individuation. If things are individuated quantitatively, we vaguely understand. What quantity? It is a matter of defining people, things, animals, anything by what each one can do.

People, things, animals distinguish themselves by what they can do, i.e. they can't do the same thing. What is it that I can do? Never would a moralist define man by what he can do, a moralist defines man by what he is, by what he is by right. So, a moralist defines man as a reasonable animal. It is essence. Spinoza never defines man as a reasonable animal, he defines man by what he can do, body and soul. If I say that reasonable‚ is not the essence of man, but it is something that man can do, it changes so that unreasonable is also something that man can do. To be mad is also a part of the power (pouvoir) of man. At the level of an animal, we see the problem clearly. If you take what is called natural history, it has its foundation in Aristotle. It defines the animal by what the animal is. In its fundamental ambition, it is a matter of what the animal is. What is a vertebrate, what is a fish, and Aristotle’s natural history is full of this search for the essence. In what is called the animal classifications, one will define the animal above all, whenever possible, by its essence, i.e. by what it is. Imagine these sorts who arrive and who proceed completely otherwise: they are interested in what the thing or the animal can do. They are going to make a kind of register of the powers (pouvoirs) of the animal. Those there can fly, this here eats grass, that other eats meat. The alimentary regime, you sense that it is about the modes of existence. An inanimate thing too, what can it do, the diamond, what can it do? That is, of what tests is it capable? What does it support? What does it do? A camel can go without drinking for a long time. It is a passion of the camel. We define things by what they can do, it opens up forms of experimentation. It is a whole exploration of things, it doesn't have anything to do with essence. It is necessary to see people as small packets of power (pouvoir). I am making a kind of description of what people can do.

From the point of view of an ethics, all that exists, all beings (étants) are related to a quantitative scale which is that of power (puissance). They have more or less power. This differentiable quantity is power. The ethical discourse will not cease to speak to us, not of essences, it doesn’t believe in essences, it speaks to us only of power (puissance), that is, the actions and passions of which something is capable. Not what the thing is, but what it is capable of supporting and capable of doing. And if there is no general essence, it is because, at this level of power (puissance), everything is singular. We don‚t know in advance even though the essence tells us what a set of things is. Ethics tells us nothing, it cannot know. One fish cannot do what the next fish can. There will thus be an infinite differentiation of the quantity of power (puissance) according to what exists. Things receive a quantitative distinction because they are related to the scale of power (puissance).

When, well after Spinoza, Nietzsche will launch the concept of will to power (volonté de puissance), I am not saying that he intends to say this, but above all, it means this. And we cannot understand anything in Nietzsche if we believe that it is the operation by which each of us would tend towards power (puissance). Power is not what I want, by definition, it is what I have. I have this or that power and it is this that situates me in the quantitative scale of Beings. Making power the object of the will is a misunderstanding, it is just the opposite. It is according to power that I have, that I want this or that. The will to power means that you will define things, men, animals according to the effective power that they have. Once again, it is the question: What can a body do? This is very different from the moral question: What must you do by virtue of your essence? It is: What can you do, you, by virtue of your power (puissance)? There you have it, therefore, that power (puissance) constitutes the quantitative scale of Beings. It is the quantity of power (puissance) which distinguishes one existing thing (éxistant) from another existing thing (éxistant).

Spinoza very often said that essence is power (puissance). Understand the philosophical coup that he is in the process of making.






…we find ourselves faced with Blyenbergh’s two objections. The first concerns the point of view of nature in general. It comes down to saying to Spinoza that it’s very nice to explain that every time a body encounters another there are relations that combine and relations that decompose, sometimes to the advantage of one of the two bodies, sometimes to the advantage of the other body. But nature itself combines all the relations at once. Thus in nature in general what doesn’t stop is the fact that all the time there are compositions and decompositions of relations, all the time since, ultimately, the decompositions are like the other side of the compositions. But there is no reason to privilege the composition of relations over the decomposition since the two always go together.
For example: I eat. I compose the relation with the food I absorb. But this is done by decomposing the food’s own relations. Another example: I am poisoned. Arsenic decomposes my relation, okay, but it composes its own relation with the new relations into which the parts of my body enter under the action of the arsenic. Thus there is always composition and decomposition at once. Thus nature, says Blyenbergh, nature such as you conceive it is nothing but an immense chaos.
Under the objection Spinoza wavers.
Spinoza sees no difficulty and his reply is very clear. He says that it is not so for a simple reason: it’s that from the point of view of the whole of nature, one cannot say that there is composition and decomposition at once since, from the point of view of the whole of nature, there are only compositions. There are only compositions of relations. It’s really from the point of view of our understanding [entendement] that we say that such and such relations combine to the detriment of another such relation, which must decompose so that the two others can combine. But it’s because we isolate a part of Nature. From the point of view of the complete whole of Nature, there is never anything but relations that combine with each other. I like this reply very much: the decomposition of relations does not exist from the point of view of the whole of nature since the whole of nature embraces all relations. Thus there are inevitably compositions, and that is all [un point c'est tout].
This very simple, very clear, very beautiful reply sets up another difficulty. It refers to Blyenbergh’s second objection. Let us suppose, at the limit, that he concedes the point on the problem of the whole of nature, so then let’s approach the other aspect, a particular point of view, my particular point of view, that is to say the point of view of a precise and fixed relation. Actually, what I call ME [Moi] is a set of precise and fixed relations which constitute me. From this point of view, and it’s solely from a particular, determinable point of view, you or me, that I can say that there are compositions and decompositions.
I would say that there is composition when my relation is conserved and combined with another, external relation, but I would say that there is decomposition when the external body acts on me in such a manner that one of my relations, or even many of my relations, is destroyed, that is, ceases to be carried out [effectuŽs] by the current parts. Just as from the point of view of nature I was able to say that there are only compositions of relations, as soon as I take a particular determined point of view, I must say that there are decompositions which are not to be confused with compositions. Hence Blyenbergh’s objection, which consists in saying that ultimately what you call vice and virtue is whatever suits [arrange] you. You will call it virtue every time you compose relations, no matter what relations you destroy, and you will call it vice every time that one of your relations is decomposed. In other words you will call virtue whatever is agreeable to you and vice whatever is not agreeable to you. This comes down to saying that food is agreeable to you and poison is not agreeable to you. But when we speak generally of vice and virtue, we appeal to something other than such a criterion of taste, that is, what suits me and what doesn’t suit me. This objection is distinct from the preceding one because it is made in the name of a particular point of view and no longer in the name of the whole of nature. And it is summarized in this line that Blyenbergh constantly repeats: you reduce morality to a matter of taste.
Spinoza is going to throw himself into an endeavor to show that he preserves an objective criterion for the distinction of the good from the bad, or of virtue from vice. He’s going to attempt to show that Spinozism offers us a properly ethical criterion of the good and the bad, of vice and virtue, and that this criterion is not a simple criterion of taste according to what suits me or doesn’t suit me. He is going to try to show that, from a particular point of view, he doesn’t confuse vice and virtue with what suits me. He is going to show it in two texts which, to my knowledge, are Spinoza’s strangest, to the point that the one seems incomprehensible and the other is perhaps comprehensible but seems very bizarre. In the end, everything is resolved in a marvelously lucid way.
The first is in the letters to Blyenbergh (letter 23). He wants to show that not only does he have a criterion for distinguising vice from virtue, but that this criterion applies in cases that appear very complicated, and that further it is a criterion of distinction, not only for distinguishing vice from virtue, but if one comprehends this criterion well, one can make distinctions in cases of crime.
I’ll read this text:
"Nero’s matricide, insofar as it contained anything positive, was not a crime." You see what Spinoza means. Evil isn’t anything. Thus insofar as an act is positive it cannot be a crime, it cannot be evil. Therefore an act as a crime, if it is a crime, it’s not so insofar as it contains something positive, it’s from another point of view. Very well, we can comprehend it abstractly. "Nero killed his mother. Orestes also killed his mother. Orestes was able to accomplish an act which, externally, is the same, and at the same time intended to kill his mother, without deserving the same accusation as Nero." Actually, we treat Orestes in a different way than we treat Nero, even though both of them killed their mothers intentionally. "What, therefore, is Nero’s crime? It consists solely in the fact that, in his act, Nero showed himself to be ungrateful, unmerciful and disobedient." The act is the same, the intention is the same, there is a difference at the level of what? It’s a third determination. Spinoza concludes, "none of these characteristics expresses anything to do with an essence."
Ungrateful, unmerciful, none of these characteristics expresses anything to do with an essence. One doesn’t know what to think. Is this a reply to Blyenbergh? What can one get out of a text of this sort? Ungrateful, unmerciful and disobedient. So then if Nero’s act is bad, it’s not because he killed his mother, it’s not because he intended to kill her, it’s because Nero, in killing his mother, showed himself to be ungrateful, unmerciful and disobedient. Orestes kills his mother but is neither ungrateful nor disobedient. So one keeps searching. One comes across Book IV of The Ethics, and one comes across a text which doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the previous one. One gets the impression that Spinoza has acquired a kind of diabolical humor or has gone mad. Book IV, proposition 59, scholium:
The text of the proposition already does not appear simple. It involves demonstrating, for Spinoza, that all the actions to which we are determined from a feeling which is a passion, we can be determined to do them without it (without the feeling), we can be determined to do them by reason. Everything that we do when pushed by passion, we can do when pushed by pure reason.
Then comes the scholium:
"These things are more clearly explained by an example. The act of beating, insofar as it is considered physically, and insofar as we attend only to the fact that the man raises his arm, closes his fist, and moves his whole arm forcefully up and down, is a virtue, which is conceived from the structure of the human body." He does not cheat with the word virtue, it’s an exercise [effectuation] of the power of the body, it’s what my body can do, it’s one of the things it can do. This makes it part of the potentiae of the human body, of this power [puissance] in action, it’s an act of power, and for that very reason this is what we call virtue. "Therefore, if a man moved by anger or hate (i.e. by a passion) is determined (determined by the passion) to close his fist or move his arm, that, as we have shown in Part II, happens because one and the same action can be associated with any images of things whatever." Spinoza is in the process of telling us something very strange. He is in the process of telling us that he calls the determination of the action association, the link that unites the image of the action with an image of a thing. That is the determination of the action. The determination of the action is the image of a thing to which the image of the act is linked. It’s truly a relation that he himself presents as being a relation of association: one and the same action can be associated with any image of a thing whatever.
The citation from Spinoza continues: "And so we can be determined to one and the same action both from those images of things which we conceive confusedly and from those images of things we conceive clearly and distinctly. It is evident, therefore, that every desire which arises from a feeling which is a passion would be of no use if men could be guided by reason."
That is to say that all the actions that we do determined by passions, we could just as well do determined by pure reason.
What is this introduction of the confused and the distinct? There it is, what I recall from the text and it’s in the text to the letter. He says that an image of action can be associated with images of very different things. Consequently the same action can be associated just as well with images of confused things as with images of clear and distinct things.
So I bring my fist down on my mother’s head. There’s one case. And with the same violence I bring my fist down on the head [membrane] of a bass drum. It’s not the same gesture. But Spinoza suppressed [supprimŽe] this objection. He replied to it in advance. Actually, Spinoza posed the problem in conditions such that this objection could not be valid. In effect, he asks us to consent to an extremely paradoxical analysis of action as follows: between the action and the object on which it bears there is a relation which is a relation of association. Indeed, if, between the action and the object on which it bears, the relation is associative, if it’s a relation of association, then Spinoza is quite right. That is, it’s clearly the same action, whatever the variants might be, which in one case is associated with my mother’s head and in the other case is associated with a bass drum. Thus the objection is suppressed.
What difference is there between these two cases? One senses what Spinoza means and what he means is not nothing. Let’s return to the criterion we’re sure of: what bad is there when I do this thing that is an exercise [effectuation] of the power of my body and which, in this sense, is good? I do that, I simply give someone a blow on the head. What is bad: that I decompose a relation, namely my mother’s head. In beating like that on my mother’s head I destroy the constituent relation of the head: my mother dies or passes out under the blow. In Spinozist terms, I would say that in this case I associate my action with the image of a thing whose relation is directly decomposed by this action. I associate the image of the act with the image of something whose constituent relation is decomposed by this act.
When I bring my fist down on a bass drum? The drumhead is defined how? The tension of the head will also be defined by a certain relation. But in this case here, if the power of a head is to produce harmonics, here I’ve associated my action with the image of something whose relation combines directly with this action. That is, I have drawn harmonics out of the drumhead.
What’s the difference? It’s enormous. In one case I associated my action, once again, the image of a thing whose relation combines directly with the relation of my act, and in the other case, I associated my act with the image of a thing whose relation is immediately and directly decomposed by my act. You grasp the criterion of The Ethics for Spinoza. It’s a very modest criterion, but here, Spinoza gives us a rule. He liked the decompositions of relations very much, he adored the battles of spiders, that made him laugh. Imagine your everyday actions: there are a certain number of them which are characterized as being associated with an image of a thing or being which combines directly with the action, and others which, on the contrary (a type of action), are associated with images of things whose relation is decomposed by the action.
So by convention the actions of direct composition will be called GOOD and the actions of direct decomposition will be called BAD.
We are still floundering among many problems. First problem: what is there in the text of The Ethics that can cast a glimmer of light for us on the text of the letter, the difference between Orestes and Nero. In the letter, it involves two actions which are both crimes. Why is what Nero did something bad, while according to Spinoza one can’t even say that Orestes, in killing his mother, has done something bad? How can one say such a thing? One can say such a thing according to the following: we now have the method of the analysis of action according to Spinoza. Every action will be analyzed along two dimensions: the image of the act as power of the body, what a body can do, and the image of the associated thing, that is to say the object on which the act bears. Between the two there is a relation of association. It’s a logic of action.
Nero kills his mother. In killing his mother, Nero associated his act directly with the image of a being whose relation would be decomposed by this act: he killed his mother. Thus the relation of primary, direct association is between the act and an image of a thing whose relation is decomposed by this act.
Orestes kills his mother because she killed Agamemnon, that is to say because she killed Orestes’ father. In killing his mother, Orestes pursues a sacred vengeance. Spinoza does not say vengeance. According to Spinoza, Orestes associates his act, not with the image of Clytemnestra whose relation will be decomposed by this act, but rather he associates it with the relation of Agamemnon which was decomposed by Clytemnestra. In killing his mother, Orestes recomposes his relation with the relation of his father.
Spinoza is in the process of telling us that, okay, at the level of a particular point of view, you or me, there is always composition and decomposition of relations at once; does that mean that the good and the bad are mixed up and become indiscernible? No, replies Spinoza, because at the level of a logic of the particular point of view there will always be a priority [primat]. Sometimes the composition of relations will be direct and the decomposition indirect, and sometimes, on the contrary, the decomposition willl be direct and the composition indirect. Spinoza tells us: I call good an action that implements [opre] a direct composition of relations even if it implements an indirect decomposition, and I call bad an action that implements a direct decomposition even if it implements an indirect composition. In other words there are two types of actions: actions in which the decomposition comes about as if in consequence and not in principle, because the principle is a composition - and this has value only for my point of view, because from the point of view of nature everything is composition and it’s for that reason that God knows neither evil nor the bad - and inversely there are actions which directly decompose and imply compositions only indirectly. This, then, is the criterion of the good and the bad and it’s with this that it’s necessary to live. Spinoza is an author who, whenever he encounters the problem of a symbolic dimension, continually expunges it, hunts it down, and tries to show that it was a confused idea of the worst imagination. Prophetism is the act by which I receive a sign and by which I emit signs. There is clearly a theory of the sign in Spinoza, which consists in relating the sign to the most confused understanding and imagination in the world, and in the world such as it is, according to Spinoza, the idea of the sign does not exist. There are expressions, there are never signs. When God reveals to Adam that the apple will act as a poison, he reveals to him a composition of relations, he reveals to him a physical truth and he doesn’t send him a sign at all. It’s only to the extent that one comprehends nothing of the substance-mode relation that one invokes signs. Spinoza says a thousand times that God makes no signs, he gives expressions. He does not give a sign which would refer to a signification or a signifier (a crazy notion for Spinoza), he expresses himself, that is to say he reveals his relations. And revealing is neither mystical nor symbolic. Revealing is giving something to comprehend. He gives relations to comprehend in the understanding of God. The apple falls, it’s a revelation of God, it’s a composition of relations… If there is an order of filiations in Spinoza, it’s obviously not a symbolic order, it’s an order that, step by step, makes up Nature, and Nature is an individual, an individual which encompasses all individuals, there is an order of compositions of relations and it’s quite necessary that all the relations be carried out [effectuŽs]. The necessity of Nature is that there will not be relations that are not carried out. Everything possible is necessary, which means that all relations have been or will be carried out.
Spinoza wouldn’t do the Eternal Return, the same relation will not be executed [executŽ] twice. There is an infinity of relations, the whole of Nature is the totality of executions [effectuations] of all possible, and thus necessary, relations. That is identity in Spinoza, the absolute identity of the possible and the necessary. On prophetism, Spinoza says something very simple which will be taken up again by Nietzsche, by all those authors of whom one can say that they are, in this sense, those who have pushed positivism as far as possible. Here, broadly speaking, is the idea that they get: okay, there are laws. These laws are laws of Nature and thus when one speaks of divine revelation there is nothing mysterious. Divine revelation is the exposition of laws. Spinoza calls a law a composition of relations. This is what will be called a law of nature. When one is very restricted one cannot comprehend laws as laws. How does one comprehend them? 2 + 2 = 4 is a composition of relations. You have the relation two plus two, you have the relation four, and you have the relation of identity between the relation two plus two and the relation four. If you comprehend nothing, you hear this law as an order, or as a commandment. The little child at school comprehends the law of nature as a moral law: it is necessary that it be so, and if he says something else he will be punished. It proceeds like that according to our restricted understanding. If we were to grasp the laws as what they are, as physical compositions of relations, compositions of bodies, then notions as strange as command and obedience would remain completely unknown to us. It’s to the extent that we perceive a law that we don’t comprehend that we apprehend it as an order; God forbade absolutely nothing, Spinoza explains on the subject of Adam. He revealed a law to him, namely that the apple combines with a relation that excludes my constituent relation. Therefore it’s a law of nature. It’s exactly like arsenic. Adam comprehends nothing of any of this, and instead of grasping it as a law, he grasps it as one of God’s prohibitions. So when I grasp things under the form command-obedience, instead of grasping them as compositions of relations, at that very moment I start saying that God is like a father, I demand a sign. The prophet is someone who, not grasping the laws of nature, will just ask for the sign that guarantees to him that the order is just.
If I comprehend nothing in the law, I demand on the other hand a sign in order to be sure that what I am ordained to do is really what I am ordained to do. The first reaction of the prophet is: God, give me a sign that it is really you who speaks to me. Later, when the prophet has the sign, he is going to emit signs. This will be the language of signs.
Spinoza is a positivist because he opposes expression to the sign: God expresses, the modes express, the attributes express. Why? In logical language, one would say that the sign is always equivocal, there is an equivocity of the sign, that is to say that the sign signifies, but it signifies in several senses. In contrast, expression is uniquely and completely univocal: there is only one single sense of the expression, and that is the sense following which the relations combine.
According to Spinoza, God proceeds by expression and never by sign. The true language is that of expression. The language of expression is that of the composition of relations to infinity.
All that Spinoza will consent to is the fact that, because we are not philosophers, because our understanding is restricted, we always have need of certain signs. Signs are a vital necessity because we comprehend only a very few of the things in the world. That’s the way Spinoza justifies society. Society is the institution [instauration] of the minimum of signs indispensible to life. Of course, there are relations of obedience and command, if one has knowledge [connaissance] there is no need to obey or command. But it happens that one has a very limited knowledge, thus all one can ask of those who command and obey is not to meddle with knowledge. So all obedience and command bearing on knowledge is null and void. Which Spinoza expresses on a very beautiful page of the Theological-Political Treatise, namely that there is only one absolutely inalienable freedom, and that is the freedom of thought. If there is a symbolic domain, it is that of order, command and obedience. It is the domain of signs. The domain of knowledge is the domain of relations, that is to say of univocal expressions.







Eternity, instantaneity, duration.
affectio and affectus,
affection and affect.
Duration. Theory of the affects.
Blyenbergh, the Ethics
Sadness and joy. Hate. Power (puissance).
The spheres of belonging.
The unlimited, the infinite.

Bleyenbergh: Composition and decomposition of relations

Spinoza’s example in the letters to Blyenbergh: I am led by a basely sensual appetite or else, the other case: I feel a true love. What are these two cases? It is necessary to try to understand them according to the criteria that Spinoza gives us. A basely sensual appetite, even the mere expression, one feels that it is not good, that it is bad. It is bad in what sense? When I am led by a basely sensual appetite, what does that mean? It means that: within it there is an action, or a tendency to action: for example desire. What happens to the desire when am I led by a basely sensual appetite? It is the desire of. Good. What is this desire? It can only be qualified by its association with an image of a thing, for example I desire a bad woman.

Richard Pinhas: several! [Bursts of general laughter]) or even worse, even worse: several!

Gilles Deleuze : Yes. What does it mean? We saw a bit of it when he suggested the difference between adultery, all that. Forget the ridiculous aspect of the examples, but they are not ridiculous, they are examples! In this case, what he calls basely sensual, basely sensual appetite, the basely sensual consists in this, that the action, in all manners, even for example making love, the action is a virtue! Why? Because it is something that my body can do; don't ever forget the theme of power (puissance). It is in my body’s power. So it is a virtue, and in this sense it is the expression of a power.

But if I remained there with it, I would have no means of distinguishing the basely sensual appetite from the most beautiful of loves. But there it is, when there is basely sensual appetite, why is it? It is because, in fact, I associate my action, or the image of my action, with the image of a thing whose relation is decomposed by this action. In several different ways, in all ways, for example if I am married, in the very example that Spinoza took, I decompose a relation, the relation of the couple. Or if the other person is married, I decompose the relation of the couple. But what’s more, in a basely sensual appetite I decompose all sorts of relations: the basely sensual appetite with its taste for destruction, good we can take everything up again on the decompositions of relations, a kind of fascination of the decomposition of relations, of the destruction of relations. On the contrary in the most beautiful of loves. Notice that there, I don't invoke the mind at all, it would not be Spinozist, according to parallelism. I invoke a love in the case of the most beautiful of loves, a love which is not less bodily than the most basely sensual love. The difference is, simply, that in the most beautiful of loves, my action, the same, exactly the same, my physical action, my bodily action, is associated with an image of the thing whose relation is directly combined, directly composed with the relation of my action. It is in this sense that the two uniting individuals lovingly form an individual which has both of them as parts, Spinoza would say. On the contrary, in the basely sensual love, the one destroys the other, the other destroys the one, that is there is a whole process of decomposition of relations. In short, they make love like they are knocking each other about.

All this is very concrete. So it works.

Only we always come up against this, Spinoza tells us: you don't choose, in the end, the image of the thing with which your action is associated. It engages a whole play of causes and of effects which escape you. Indeed, what is it that makes this basely sensual love take you? You cannot say to yourself: Ha! I could do otherwise. Spinoza is not one of those who believes in a free will. No, it is a whole determinism which associates the images of things with the actions. Then what’s more troubling, the formula: I am as perfect as I can be according to the affections that I have. That is to say that if I am dominated by a basely sensual appetite, I am as perfect as I can be, as perfect as it is possible, as perfect as it is in my power (pouvoir) to be.

And could I say: I am deprived of (manque) a better state? Spinoza seems very firm. In the letters to Blyenbergh he says: I cannot say that I am deprived of a better state, I cannot even say it. Because it doesn't make any sense. To say at the moment when I experience a basely sensual appetite ˜ once again, you will see in the text, if you haven't already seen it, this example which returns ˜ because Blyenbergh clings there to this example. Indeed it is very simple, it is very clear. When I say, at the moment when I experience a basely sensual appetite, when I say: Ha! I am deprived of true love, if I say it, what does that mean to say: I am deprived of something? Literally it doesn't mean anything, absolutely nothing in Spinoza, but nothing! It merely means that my mind compares a state that I have to a state that I don't have, in other words it is not a real relation, it is a comparison of the mind. A pure comparison of the mind. And Spinoza goes so far as to say: you might as well say at that moment there that the stone is deprived of sight. You might as well say at that moment there that the stone is deprived of sight. Indeed, why wouldn‚t I compare the stone to a human organism, and in the name of a same comparison of the mind, I would say: the stone doesn't see, therefore it is deprived of sight. And Spinoza said expressly ˜ I am not looking for the texts because you are reading them, I hope ˜ Spinoza responds expressly to Blyenbergh: it is just as stupid to speak of the stone by saying of it that it is deprived of sight as it would be stupid, at the moment when I experience a basely sensual appetite, to say that I am deprived of a better love.

So then, at this level, we listen to Spinoza, and we tell ourselves that there is something which doesn't work, because in his comparison, I take the two judgments, I say of the stone: it can't see, it is deprived of sight, and I say of someone who experiences a basely sensual appetite that they are deprived of virtue. Are these two propositions, as Spinoza claims, of the same type? It is so apparent that they are not the same, that we can be confident that if Spinoza says to us that they are of the same type, it is because he wants to be provocative. He wants to say to us: I challenge you to tell me the difference between the two propositions. But one feels the difference. Spinoza‚s provocation is going to allow us perhaps to find it. In the two cases, for the two propositions, is the stone (pierre) deprived of sight, or is Pierre ˜ the name this time ˜ deprived of virtue, is the comparison of the mind between two states, a state that I have and a state that I don't have, is the comparison of the mind of the same type? Evidently not! Why? To say that the stone is deprived of sight is, on the whole, to say that nothing in it contains the possibility of seeing. While, when I say: he is deprived of true love, it is not a comparison of the same type, since, this time, I don’t rule out that at other moments this being here has experienced something which resembled true love.

In other words, the question specifies, I will go very slowly, even if you have the impression that all this goes without saying: is a comparison within the same being analogous to a comparison between two beings? Spinoza doesn't back away from the problem, he takes the case of the blind man, and he says to us quietly ˜ but once again, what does he have in mind in saying things like this to us, which are so obviously inaccurate ˜ he says to us: the blind man is deprived of nothing! Why? He is as perfect as he can be according to the affections that he has. He is deprived of (privé de) visual images, to be blind is to be deprived of visual images; that means that he doesn’t see, but neither does the stone see. And he says: there is no difference between the blind man and the stone from this point of view, namely: the one like the other doesn't have visual images. So it is just as stupid, says Spinoza, it is just as stupid to say that the blind man is deprived of sight as it is to say: the stone is deprived of sight. And the blind man, then? He is as perfect as he can be, according to what? You see even so, Spinoza doesn't say to us: according to his power (puissance); he says that the blind man is as perfect as he can be according to the affections of his power, that is according to the images of which he is capable. According to the images of things of which he is capable, which are the true affections of his power. So it would be entirely the same thing as saying: the stone doesn't have sight, and to say: the blind man doesn't have sight.

Pure instantaneity of essence
Blyenbergh begins here to understand something. He begins to understand. However, Spinoza Why does he make this kind of provocation? And, Blyenbergh [X] once again it appears to me a typical example of the point at which the commentators are mistaken, it seems to me, by saying that Blyenbergh is stupid, because Blyenbergh doesn't get Spinoza wrong. Blyenbergh answers Spinoza immediately by saying: all that is very pretty but you can only manage it if you insist upon (he didn't say it in this form, but you will see, the text really comes down to the same thing) a kind of pure instantaneity of the essence. It is interesting as an objection, it is a good objection. Blyenbergh retorts: you cannot assimilate the blind man not seeing and the stone not seeing, you can only make such an assimilation if, at the same time, you pose a kind of pure instantaneity of the essence, namely: there belongs to an essence only the present, instantaneous affection that it experiences insofar as it experiences it. The objection here is very very strong. If indeed I am saying: there belongs to my essence only the affection that I experience here and now, then, indeed, I am not deprived of anything. If I am blind I am not deprived of sight, if I am dominated by a basely sensual appetite, I am not deprived of better love. I am not deprived of anything. There belongs to my essence, indeed, only the affection that I experience here and now. And Spinoza answers quietly: yes, that’s the way it is.

This is curious. What is curious? That it is the same man who never stops telling us that the essence is eternal. The singular essences, that is yours, mine, all the essences are eternal. Notice that it is a way of saying that the essence doesn't endure. Now as a matter of fact there are two ways of not enduring, at first sight: the way of eternity or the way of instantaneity. Now it is very curious how slyly he passes from one to the other. He began by telling us: the essences are eternal, and now he tells us: the essences are instantaneous. If you like, it becomes a very bizarre position. To the letter of the text: the essences are eternal, but those things which belongs to the essence are instantaneous; there belongs to my essence only what I experience actually insofar as I experience it actually. And indeed, the formula: I am as perfect as I can be according to the affection which determines my essence‚ implies this strict instantaneity.

That is pretty much the high point of the correspondence, because a very curious thing is going to happen. Spinoza responds to this very violently because he increasingly loses patience with this correspondence. Blyenbergh protests here, he says: but in the end, you cannot define the essence by instantaneity, what does this mean? Then it is a pure instantaneity? Sometimes you have a basely sensual appetite, sometimes you have a better love, and you will say each time that you are as perfect as you can be, there as in a series of flashes! In other words Blyenbergh says to him: you cannot expel the phenomenon of duration. There is a duration, and it is precisely according to this duration that you can become better, there is a becoming, and it is according to this duration that you can become better or worse. When you experience a basely sensual appetite it is not a pure instantaneity which comes over you. It is necessary to take it in terms of duration, that is: you become worse than you were before. And when a better love forms in you, of course you become better. There is an irreducibility of duration. In other words the essence cannot be measured in its instantaneous states.

Now this is curious because Spinoza stops the correspondence. On this point no response from Spinoza. And at just the same time Blyenbergh does something imprudent, that is sensing that he‚s posed an important question to Spinoza, he starts to pose all sorts of questions, he thinks he has caught Spinoza out, and Spinoza tells him to back off. He says to him let go of me a while, leave me in peace‚. He cuts the correspondence short, he stops, he won't answer anymore.

All of this is very dramatic because it can be said: Aha! Then he didn't have anything to respond If he had to respond because the response that Spinoza could have made, and we are certainly forced to conclude that he could have made it, therefore if he didn't make it, it is because he did not want to, the response is all in the Ethics. Therefore just as on certain points the correspondence with Blyenbergh goes farther than the Ethics, on other points, and for a simple reason I think, which is that Spinoza above all doesn't want to give Blyenbergh, for reasons which are his own, he above all doesn't want to give Blyenbergh the idea of what this book is, this book of which everyone is speaking at the time, that Spinoza experiences the need to hide because he feels that he has a lot to fear. He doesn't want to give Blyenbergh, whom he feels to be an enemy, he doesn't want to give him an idea of what the Ethics is. So he stops the correspondence. We can consider in this respect that he has a response that he doesn't want to give. He says to himself: I will still have problems.

The sphere of belonging of essence
But it is up to us to try to reconstitute this response. Spinoza knows very well that there is duration. You see that we are now in the process of playing with three terms: eternity, instantaneity, duration. What is instantaneity? We don’t yet know at all what eternity is in Spinoza, but eternity is the modality of essence. It is the modality which belongs to essence. Let’s suppose that the essence is eternal, that is that it is not subject to time. What does this mean? We don’t know.

What is instantaneity? Instantaneity is the modality of affection of essence. Formula: I am always as perfect as I can be according to the affections that I have here and now. Therefore affection is actually an instantaneous cut. In effect it is the species of horizontal relation between an action and an image of a thing. Third dimension, it is as if we were in the process of constituting the three dimensions of what we could call the sphere. Here I take a word, which is not at all Spinozist, but I take a word which allows us to regroup this, a Husserlian word, the sphere of belonging of the essence: the essence is what belongs to it. I believe that Spinoza would say that this sphere of belonging of the essence has three dimensions. There is the essence itself, eternal; there are the affections of the essence here and now which are like so many instants, that is, what affects me at this moment; and then there is what?

It is found, and here, the terminology is important, Spinoza rigorously distinguishes between affectio and affectus. It is complicated because there are a lot of translators who translate affectio by affection‚, all of the translators translate affectio by affection‚ that, that works, but there are lots of translators who translate affectus by feeling. On the one hand this doesn’t say much, in French, the difference between affection and feeling, and on the other hand it is a shame, even a slightly more barbaric word would be better, but it would be better, it seems to me, to translate affectus by affect, since the word exists in French; this retains at least the same root common to affectio and to affect. Therefore Spinoza, if only by his terminology, distinguishes well between the affectio and the affectus, the affection and the affect.

Affection envelops an affect
What is it, the affect‚? Spinoza tells us that it is something that the affection envelops. The affection envelops an affect. You recall, the affection is the effect ˜ literally if you want to give it an absolutely rigorous definition ˜ it is the instantaneous effect of an image of a thing on me. For example perceptions are affections. The image of things associated with my action is an affection. The affection envelops, implicates, all of these are the words Spinoza constantly uses. To envelope: it is necessary to really take them as material metaphors, that is that within the affection there is an affect. There is a difference in nature between the affect and the affection. The affect is not something dependent on the affection, it is enveloped by the affection, that’s something else. There is a difference in nature between the affect and the affection. What does my affection, that is the image of the thing and the effect of this image on me, what does it envelop? It envelops a passage or a transition. Only it is necessary to take passage or transition in a very strong sense. Why?

Duration is the passage, the lived transition
You see, it means: it is something other than a comparison of mind, here we are no longer in the domain of a comparison of mind. It is not a comparison of the mind in two states, it is a passage or transition enveloped by the affection, by every affection. Every instantaneous affection envelops a passage or transition. Transition, to what? Passage, to what? Once again, not at all a comparison of the mind, I must add in order to go more slowly: a lived passage, a lived transition, which obviously doesn’t mean conscious. Every state implicates a lived passage or transition. Passage from what to what, between what and what? More precisely, so close are the two moments of time, the two instants that I consider instant A and instant A‚, that there is a passage from the preceding (antérieur) state to the current (actuel) state. The passage from the preceding state to the current state differs in nature with the preceding state and with the current state. There is a specificity of the transition, and it is precisely this that we call duration and that Spinoza calls duration. Duration is the lived passage, the lived transition. What is duration? Never anything but the passage from one thing to another, it suffices to add, insofar as it is lived.

When, centuries later, Bergson will make duration into a philosophical concept, it will obviously be with wholly different influences. It will be according to itself above all, it will not be under the influence of Spinoza. Nevertheless, I am just pointing out that the Bergsonian use of duration coincides strictly. When Bergson tries to make us understand what he calls duration‚, he says: you can consider psychic states as close together as you want in time, you can consider the state A and the state A‚ as separated by a minute, but just as well by a second, by a thousandth of a second, that is you can make more and more cuts, increasingly tight, increasingly close to one another. You may well go to the infinite, says Bergson, in your decomposition of time, by establishing cuts with increasing rapidity, but you will only ever reach states. And he adds that the states are always of space. The cuts are always spatial. And you will have brought your cuts together very well, you will let something necessarily escape, it is the passage from one cut to another, however small it may be. Now, what does he call duration, at its simplest? It is the passage from one cut to another, it is the passage from one state to another. The passage from one state to another is not a state, you will tell me that all of this is not strong, but it is a really profound statute of living. For how can we speak of the passage, the passage from one state to another, without making it a state? This is going to pose problems of expression, of style, of movement, it is going to pose all sorts of problems. Yet duration is that, it is the lived passage from one state to another insofar as it is irreducible to one state as to the other, insofar as it is irreducible to any state. This is what happens between two cuts.

In one sense duration is always behind our backs, it is at our backs that it happens. It is between two blinks of the eye. If you want an approximation of duration: I look at someone, I look at someone, duration is neither here nor there. Duration is: what has happened between the two? Even if I would have gone as quickly as I would like, duration goes even more quickly, by definition, as if it was affected by a variable coefficient of speed: as quickly as I go, my duration goes more quickly. However quickly I pass from one state to another, the passage is irreducible to the two states. It is this that every affection envelops. I would say: every affection envelops the passage by which we arrive at it. Or equally well: every affection envelops the passage by which we arrive at it, and by which we leave it, towards another affection, however close the two affections considered are. So in order to make my line complete it would be necessary for me to make a line of three times: A, A,' A"; A is the instantaneous affection, of the present moment, A' is that of a little while ago, A" is what is going to come. Even though I have brought them together as close as possible, there is always something which separates them, namely the phenomenon of passage. This phenomenon of passage, insofar as it is a lived phenomenon, is duration: this is the third member of the essence.

I therefore have a slightly stricter definition of the affect, the affect: what every affection envelops, and which nevertheless is of another nature is the passage, it is the lived passage from the preceding state to the current state, or of the current state to the following state. Good. If you understand all that, for the moment we‚re doing a kind of decomposition of the three dimensions of the essence, of the three members of the essence. The essence belongs to itself under the form of the eternity, the affection belongs to the essence under the form of instantaneity, the affect belongs to the essence under the form of duration.

Affect, increase and decrease of power
Now the passage is what? What could a passage be? It is necessary to leave the too spatial idea. Every passage Spinoza tells us, and this is going to be the basis of his theory of affectus, of his theory of the affect, every passage is ˜ here he doesn't say implicates‚, understand that the words are very very important ˜ he will tell us of the affection that it implicates an affect, every affection implicates, envelops, but the enveloped and the enveloping just don't have the same nature. Every affection, that is every determinable state at a single moment, envelops an affect, a passage. But the passage, I don't ask what it envelops, it is enveloped; I ask of what does it consist, what is it? And my response from Spinoza, is it obvious what it is? It is increase and decrease of my power (puissance). It is increase or decrease of my power, even infinitesimally. I take two cases: I am in a dark room ˜ I‚m developing all of this, it is perhaps useless, I don't know, but it is to persuade you that when you read a philosophical text it is necessary that you have the most ordinary situations in your head, the most everyday ones. You are in a dark room, you are as perfect, Spinoza will say: Let’s judge from the point of view of affections, you are as perfect as you can be according to the affections that you have. You don't have any, you don't have visual affections, that’s all. There, that’s all. But you are as perfect as you can be. All of a sudden someone enters and turns on the lights without warning: I am completely dazzled. Notice that I took the worse example for me. Then, no. I‚ll change it, I was wrong. I am in the dark, and someone arrives softly, all that, and turns on a light, this is going to be very complicated this example. You have your two states which could be very close together in time. The state that I call: dark state, and small b, the lighted state. They are very close together. I am saying: there is a passage from one to the other, so fast that it may even be unconscious, all that, to the point that your whole body, in Spinozist terms these are examples of bodies, your whole body has a kind of mobilization of itself, in order to adapt to this new state. The affect is what? It is the passage. The affection is the dark state and the lighted state. Two successive affections, in cuts. The passage is the lived transition from one to the other. Notice that in this case here there is no physical transition, there is a biological transition, it is your body which makes the transition.

Every affection is instantaneous
What does this mean? The passage is necessarily an increase of power or a decrease of power. It is necessary to already understand and it is for this reason that all this is so concrete, it is not determined in advance. Suppose that in the dark you were in deep state of meditation. Your whole body was focused on this extreme meditation. You held something. The other brute arrives and turns on the light, if need be you lose an idea that you were going to have. You turn around, you are furious. We hold onto this because we will use the same example again. You hate him, even if not for long, but you hate him, you say to him: „Hey! Listen. In this case the passage to the lighted state will have brought you what? A decrease of power. Evidently if you had looked for your glasses in the dark, there they would have brought you an increase of power. The guy who turned the light on, you say to him: „Thank you very much, I love you. Good.

We’ve already said that, maybe this story of increase and decrease of power is going to play in quite variable directions and contexts. But, on the whole, there are directions. If we stick to you, one could say in general, without taking the context into account, if one increases the affections of which you are capable, there is an increase of power, if one decreases the affections of which you are capable there is a decrease of power. We can say this on the whole even knowing that it is not always like this. What do I mean? I mean something very simple: it is that every affection is instantaneous ˜ Spinoza, you see how he is very very curious, in virtue of his rigor he will say: every affection is instantaneous, and it is this that he responded to Blyenbergh, he didn't want to say more on it. One could not say that he distorted his thought, he only gave one sphere of it, he only gave a tip of it. Every affection is instantaneous, he will always say this, and he will always say: I am as perfect as I can be according to what I have in the instant. It is the sphere of belonging of the instantaneous essence. In this sense, there is neither good nor bad. But in return, the instantaneous state always envelopes an increase or a decrease of power, and in this sense there is good and bad. So much so that, not from the point of view of its state, but from the point of view of its passage, from the point of view of its duration, there is something bad in becoming blind, there is something good in becoming seeing, since it is either decrease of power or else increase of power. And here it is no longer the domain of a comparison of the mind between two states, it is the domain of the lived passage from one state to another, the lived passage in the affect. So much so that it seems to me that we can understand nothing of the Ethics, that is of the theory of the affects, if we don't keep very much in mind the opposition that Spinoza established between the comparisons between two states of the mind, and the lived passages from one state to another, lived passages that can only be lived in the affects. The affects are joy or sadness There remains for us quite a few things to understand. I would not say that the affects signal the decreases or increases of power, I would say that the affects are the decreases and the increases of lived power. Not necessarily conscious once again. It is I believe a very very profound conception of the affect. So Let’s give them names in order to better mark them. The affects which are increases of power we will call joys, the affects which are decreases of power we will call sadnesses. And the affects are either based on joy, or else based on sadness. Hence Spinoza‚s very rigorous definitions: sadness is the affect that corresponds to a decrease of power, of my power, joy is the affect which corresponds to an increase of my power. Sadness is a affect enveloped by an affection. The affection is what? It is an image of a thing which causes me sadness, which gives me sadness. You see, there we find everything, this terminology is very rigorous. I repeat. I don't know anymore what I‚ve said. The affect of sadness is enveloped by an affection, the affection is what, it is the image of a thing which gives me sadness, this image can be very imprecise, very confused, it matters little. There is my question: why does the image of a thing which gives me sadness, why does this image of a thing envelop a decrease of power (puissance) of acting? What is this thing which gives me sadness? We have at least all of the elements to respond to it, now everything is regrouped, if you have followed me everything must regroup harmoniously, very harmoniously. The thing which gives me sadness is the thing whose relations don't agree with mine. That is affection. All things whose relations tend to decompose one of my relations or the totality of my relations affect me with sadness. In terms of affectio you have there a strict correspondence, in terms of affectio, I would say: the thing has relations which are not composed with mine, and which tend to decompose mine. Here I am speaking in terms of affectio. In terms of affects I would say: this thing affects me with sadness, therefore by the same token], in the same way, decreases my power. You see I have the double language of instantaneous affections and of affects of passage. Hence I return as always to my question: why, but why, if one understood why, maybe one would understand everything. What happens? You see that he takes sadness in one sense, they are the two big affective tonalities, not two particular cases. Sadness and joy are the two big affective tonalities, that is affective in the sense of affectus, the affect. We are going to see as two lineages: the lineage based on sadness and the lineage based on joy, that are going to cover the theory of the affects. Why the thing whose relations don't agree with mine, why does it affect me with sadness, that is decrease my power of acting? You see we have a double impression: both that We’ve understood in advance, and then that we‚re missing something in order to understand. What happens, when something is presented having relations which don't compose with mine, it could be a current of air.

I am going back, I am in the dark, in my room, I am alone, I am left in peace. Someone enters and he makes me flinch, he knocks on the door, he knocks on the door and he makes me flinch. I lose an idea. He enters and he starts to speak; I have fewer and fewer ideas ouch, ouch, I am affected with sadness. Yes, I feel sadness, I‚ve been disturbed, damn! Spinoza will say, the lineage of sadness is what? Then on top of it all I hate it! I say to him: „eh, listen, it‚s okay. It could be not very serious, it could be a small hate, he irritates me damn it: hoooo! I cannot have peace, all that, I hate it!

What does it mean, hate? You see, sadness, he said to us: your power of acting is decreased, then you experience sadness insofar as it is decreased, your power of acting, okay. I hate it‚, that means that the thing whose relations don't compose with yours, you strive, this would only be what you have in mind, you strive for its destruction. To hate is to want to destroy what threatens to destroy you. This is what hate means. That is, to want‚ to decompose what threatens to decompose you. So the sadness engenders hate. Notice that it engenders joys too.

Hate engenders joys. So the two lineages, on one hand sadness, on the other hand joy, are not going to be pure lineages. What are the joys of hate? There are joys of hate.

As Spinoza says: if you imagine the being that you hate to be unhappy, your heart experiences a strange joy. One can even engender passions. And Spinoza does this marvelously. There are joys of hate. Are these joys? We can at least say, and this is going to advance us a lot for later, that these joys are strangely compensatory, that is indirect. What is first in hate, when you have feelings of hate, always look for the sadness at base, that is your power of acting was impeded, was decreased. And even if you have, if you have a diabolical heart, even if you have to believe that this heart flourishes in the joys of hate, these joys of hate, as immense as they are, will never get rid of the nasty little sadness of which you are a part; your joys are joys of compensation. The man of hate, the man of resentment, etc., for Spinoza, is the one all of whose joys are poisoned by the initial sadness, because sadness is in these same joys. In the end he can only derive joy from sadness. Sadness that he experiences himself by virtue of the existence of the other, sadness that he imagines inflicting on the other to please himself, all of this is for measly joys, says Spinoza. These are indirect joys. We rediscover our criteria of direct and indirect, all comes together at this level.

So much so that I return to my question: then yes, it is necessary to say it all the same: in what way does an affection, that is the image of something that doesn't agree with my own relations, in what way does this decrease my power of acting? It is both obvious and not. Here is what Spinoza means: suppose that you have a power (puissance), Let’s set it up roughly the same, and there, first case you come up against something whose relations don't compose with yours. Second case, on the contrary you encounter something whose relations compose with your own. Spinoza, in the Ethics, uses the Latin term: occursus, occursus is exactly this case, the encounter. I encounter bodies, my body never stops encountering bodies. The bodies that he encounters sometimes have relations which compose, sometimes have relations which don't compose with his. What happens when I encounter a body whose relation doesn't compose with mine? Well there: I would say ˜ and you will see that in book IV of the Ethics this doctrine is very strong. I cannot say that it is absolutely affirmed, but it is very much suggested ˜ a phenomenon happens which is like a kind of fixation. What does this mean, a fixation? That is, a part of my power is entirely devoted to investing and to isolating the trace, on me, of the object which doesn't agree with me. It is as if I tense my muscles, take once again the example: someone that I don't wish to see enters into the room, I say to myself Uh oh‚, and in me is made something like a kind of investment: a whole part of my power is there in order to ward off the effect on me of the object, of the disagreeable object. I invest the trace of the thing on me. I invest the effect of the thing on me. I invest the trace of the thing on me, I invest the effect of the thing on me. In other words, I try as much as possible to circumscribe the effect, to isolate it, in other words I devote a part of my power to investing the trace of the thing. Why? Evidently in order to subtract it, to put it at a distance, to avert it. Understand that this goes without saying: this quantity of power that I‚ve devoted to investing the trace of the disagreeable thing, this is the amount of my power that is decreased, which is removed from me, which is as it were immobilized.

This is what is meant by: my power decreases. It is not that I have less power, it is that a part of my power is subtracted in this sense that it is necessarily allocated to averting the action of the thing. Everything happens as if a whole part of my power is no longer at my disposal. This is the tonality affective sadness‚: a part of my power serves this unworthy need which consists in warding off the thing, warding off the action of the thing. So much immobilized power. To ward off the thing is to prevent it from destroying my relations, therefore I‚ve toughened my relations; this can be a formidable effort, Spinoza said: „like lost time, like it would have been more valuable to avoid this situation. In this way, a part of my power is fixed, this is what is meant by: a part of my power decreases. Indeed a part of my power is subtracted from me, it is no longer in my possession. It is invested, it is like a kind of hardening, a hardening of power (puissance), to the point that it is almost bad, damn, because of lost time!

On the contrary in joy, it is very curious. The experience of joy as Spinoza presents it, for example I encounter something which agrees, which agrees with my relations. For example music. There are wounding sounds. There are wounding sounds which inspire in me an enormous sadness. What complicates all this is that there are always people who find these wounding sounds, on the contrary, delicious and harmonious. But this is what makes the joy of life, that is the relations of love and hate. Because my hate against the wounding] sound is going to be extended to all those who like this wounding sound. So I go home, I hear these wounding sounds which appear to me as challenges, which really decompose all of my relations, they enter into my head, they enter into my stomach, all that. A whole part of my power is hardened in order to hold at a distance these sounds which penetrate me. I obtain silence and I put on the music that I like; everything changes. The music that I like, what does that mean? It means the resonant relations which are composed with my relations. And suppose that at that very moment my machine breaks. My machine breaks: I experience hate! (Richard: Oh no!) An Objection? (Laughter of Gilles Deleuze) Finally I experience a sadness, a big sadness. Good, I put on music that I like, there, my whole body, and my soul ˜ it goes without saying ˜ composes its relations with the resonant relations. This is what is meant by the music that I like: my power is increased. So for Spinoza, what interests me therein is that, in the experience of joy, there is never the same thing as in sadness, there is not at all an investment ˜ and we‚ll see why ˜ there is not at all an investment of one hardened part which would mean that a certain quantity of power (puissance) is subtracted from my power (pouvoir). There is not, why? Because when the relations are composed, the two things of which the relations are composed, form a superior individual, a third individual which encompasses and takes them as parts. In other words, with regard to the music that I like, everything happens as if the direct composition of relations (you see that we are always in the criteria of the direct) a direct composition of relations is made, in such a way that a third individual is constituted, individual of which me, or the music, are no more than a part. I would say, from now on, that my power (puissance) is in expansion, or that it increases.

If I take these examples, it is in order to persuade you all the same that, when, and this also goes for Nietzsche, that when authors speak of power (puissance), Spinoza of the increase and decrease of power (puissance), Nietzsche of the Will of Power (Volonté de Puissance), which it too, proceeds What Nietzsche calls affect‚ is exactly the same thing as what Spinoza calls affect, it is on this point that Nietzsche is Spinozist, that is, it is the decreases or increases of power (puissance). They have in fact something which doesn't have anything to do with whatever conquest of a power (pouvoir). Without doubt they will say that the only power (pouvoir) is finally power (puissance), that is: to increase one‚s power (puissance) is precisely to compose relations such that the thing and I, which compose the relations, are no more than two sub-individualities of a new individual, a formidable new individual.

I am going back. What distinguishes my basely sensual appetite from my best, most beautiful, love? It is exactly the same! The basely sensual appetite, you know, it‚s all the expressions, we can all make suggestions, it is in order to laugh, therefore we can say anything, the sadness After love, the animal is sad, what is this? This sadness? What does it say to us? Spinoza would never say this. Or then it is not worth the pain, there is no reason, sadness, good There are people who cultivate sadness. Feel, feel what happens to us, this denunciation which is going to run throughout the Ethics, namely: there are people who are so impotent that they are the ones who are dangerous, they are the ones who take power (pouvoir). And they can take power (pouvoir) ˜ so far away are the notions of power (puissance) and of power (pouvoir) ˜ the people of power (pouvoir) are the impotent who can only construct their power (pouvoir) on the sadness of others. They need sadness. They can only reign over slaves, and the slave is precisely the regime of the decrease of power (puissance). There are people who can only reign, who only acquire power (pouvoir) by way of sadness and by instituting a regime of sadness of the type: repent‚, of the type hate someone‚ and if you don't have anyone to hate, hate yourself, etc. Everything that Spinoza diagnoses as a kind of immense culture of sadness, the valorization of sadness, all of which says to you: if you don't pass by way of sadness, you will not flourish. Now for Spinoza this is an abomination. And if he writes an Ethics, it is in order to say: no! No! Everything you want, but not this. Then indeed, good = joy, bad = sadness. But the basely sensual appetite, you see now, and the most beautiful of loves, it is not at all a spiritual thing, but not at all. It is when an encounter works, as one says, when it functions well. It is a functionalism, but a very beautiful functionalism. What does that mean? Ideally it is never like this completely, because there are always local sadnesses, Spinoza is not unaware of that, there are always sadnesses. The question is not if there is or if there isn‚t, the question is the value that you give to them, that is the indulgence that you grant them. The more you grant them indulgence, that is the more you invest your power (puissance) in order to invest the trace of the thing, the more you will lose power (puissance). So in a happy love, in a love of joy, what happens? You compose a maximum of relations with a maximum of relations of the other, bodily, perceptual, all kinds of natures. Of course bodily, yes, why not; but perceptive also: Ah good Let’s listen to some music! In a certain manner one never stops inventing.

When I spoke of a third individual of which the two others are no more than parts, it doesn't at all mean that this third individual preexists, it is always by composing my relations with other relations, and it is under such a profile, under such an aspect that I invent this third individual of which the other and myself are no more than parts, sub-individuals. That’s it: each time that you proceed by composition of relations and composition of composed relations, you increase your power. On the contrary, the basely sensual appetite, it is not because it is sensual that it is bad. It is because, fundamentally, it never stops gambling on the decomposition of relations. It is really this sort of thing: Come on, hurt me, sadden me so that I can sadden you. The spat, etc. Ha, like we are okay with the spat. Ho. Like it is long after, that is, the small joys of compensation. All that is disgusting, but it is foul, it is the measliest life in the world. Ha come on, Let’s make our scene Because it is necessary to hate one another, afterwards we like one another much more. Spinoza vomits, he says: what are these mad people? If they did this, again, for themselves, but they are contagious, they are propagators. They won't let go of you until they have inoculated you with their sadness. What’s more, they treat you as idiots if you tell them that you don't understand, that it is not your thing. They tell you that this is the true life. And the more that they wallow, based on the spat, based on this stupidity, on the anguish of Haaaa, Heu The more that they hold on to you the more that they inoculate you, if they can hold on to you, then they pass it on to you. (Gilles Deleuze looks extremely nauseated).

Claire Parnet: Richard would like you to speak of the appetite

Gilles Deleuze: Of the composition of relations?! (Laughter). I have said everything on the composition of relations. Understand, the misinterpretation would be to believe: look for a third individual of which we would be only the parts. It does not preexist nor does the manner in which relations are decomposed. That preexists in Nature since Nature is everything, but from your point of view it is very complicated. There we are going to see what problems this poses for Spinoza because all this is very concrete all the same, on the ways of living. How to live? You don't know beforehand which are the relations. For example you are not necessarily going to find your own music. I mean: it is not scientific, in what sense? You don't have a scientific knowledge of relations which would allow you to say: „there is the woman or the man who is necessary for me. One goes along feeling one‚s way, one goes along blind. That works, that doesn't work, etc. And how to explain that there are people who only launch into things where they say that it is not going to work? (general laughter). They are the people of sadness, they are the cultivators of sadness, because they think that that is the foundation of existence. Otherwise the long apprenticeship by which, according to a presentiment of my constituent relations, I vaguely apprehend first what agrees with me and what doesn't agree with me. You will tell me that if it is in order to lead to that, it is not strong. Nothing but the formula: above all don't do what doesn't agree with you. It is not Spinoza who said this first, at first, but the proposition means nothing other than : don't do what doesn't agree with you‚ if you take it out of all context. If you take this conception ˜ that I find very grandiose ˜ to its conclusion, the relations which are composed, etc. How is it that someone very concrete is going to lead his existence in such a manner that he is going to acquire a kind of affection, of affect, or of presentiment, of the relations which agree with him, of the relations which don't agree with him, of situations where he must withdraw, of situations where he must engage himself, etc. That is not at all: it is necessary to do this‚, it is no longer at all the domain of morality. It is not necessary to do anything at all, it is necessary to find. It is necessary to find his thing, that is not at all to withdraw, it is necessary to invent the superior individualities into which I can enter as a part, for these individualities do not preexist. All that I meant takes on, I believe, a concrete signification, the two expressions take on a concrete signification. [The essence is eternal.

The eternal essence, degree of power (puissance)
The eternal essence, what does it mean? Your essence is eternal, your singular essence, that is your own essence in particular, what does this mean? For the moment we can only give one sense to this formula, namely: you are a degree of power (puissance). You are a degree of power: it is this that Spinoza means when he says, verbatim: I am a part (pars) of the power of God‚, that means, literally: I am a degree of power (puissance). Immediate objection. I am a degree of power, but after all: me as a baby, little kid, adult, old man, it is not the same degree of power, therefore it varies, my degree of power. Okay, Let’s leave that aside. How, why does this degree of power have a latitude. Okay. But I say on the whole: I am a degree of power and it is in this sense that I am eternal. No one has the same degree of power as another. See, we will have need of it later, the fact that it is a quantitative conception of individuation. But it is a special quantity since it is a quantity of power (puissance). A quantity of power we have always called an intensity. It is to this and to this alone that Spinoza assigns the term eternity‚. I am a degree of power of God, that means: I am eternal. Second sphere of belonging: I have instantaneous affections. We saw this, it is the dimension of instantaneity. Following this dimension the relations compose or don't compose. It is the dimension of affectio: composition or decomposition between things.

Third dimension of belonging: the affects. That is: each time that an affection executes my power (puissance), and it executes it as perfectly as it can, as perfectly as is possible. The affection, indeed, that is the belonging to, executes my power; it realises my power, and it realises my power as perfectly as it can, according to the circumstances, according to here and now. It executes my power here and now, according to my relations with things. The third dimension is that each time an affection executes my power, it doesn't do it without my power increasing or decreasing, it is the sphere of the affect. So my power is an eternal degree‚ doesn't prevent it from ceaselessly, in duration, increasing and decreasing. This same power which is eternal in itself, doesn’t stop increasing and decreasing, that is varying in duration. How to understand this, after all? Understanding this, after all, is not difficult. If you reflect, I have just said: the essence is a degree of power, that is: if it is a quantity, it is an intensive quantity. But an intensive quantity is not at all like an extensive quantity. An intensive quantity is inseparable from a threshold, that is an intensive quantity is fundamentally, in itself, already a difference. The intensive quantity is made of differences. Does Spinoza go so far as to say a thing like this?

Letter to Meyer on infinity
Here, I make a parenthesis of pseudo scholarship. It is important. I can say that Spinoza, firstly, said explicitly pars potentiae, part of power (puissance), and he said that our essence is a part of our divine power (puissance). I am saying, it is not a question of forcing the texts, part of power‚ is not an extensive part, it is obviously an intensive part. I am always pointing out in the domain of scholarship, but here I need it in order to justify everything that I‚m saying, that in the Scholastics of the Middle Age, the equality of two terms is absolutely current: gradus or pars, part or degree. Now the degrees are very special parts, they are intensive parts; this is the first point. Second point: I point out that in letter XII to Meyer, a gentleman named Meyer, there is a text that we will surely see the next time because it will allow us to draw conclusions on individuality. I point it out from this point on and I would like, for the next time, those who have the correspondence of Spinoza to have read the letter to Meyer, which is a famous letter, which is concerned with the infinite. In this letter, Spinoza develops a very bizarre, very curious geometrical example. And he made this geometrical example the object of all sorts of commentaries and it looked quite bizarre. And Leibniz, who was himself a very great mathematician, who had knowledge of the letter to Meyer, declared that he particularly admired Spinoza for this geometrical example which showed that Spinoza understood things that even his contemporaries didn't understand, said Leibniz. Therefore the text is that much more interesting with Leibniz’s benediction.

Here is the figure that Spinoza proposes for our reflection: two circles of which one is inside the other, but above all they are not concentric. Two [non-]concentric circles of which one is inside the other. Note the greatest and the smallest distance from one circle to the other. Do you understand the figure? Here is what Spinoza tells us. Spinoza tells us something very interesting, it seems to me, he tells us: in the case of this double figure, you can not say that you don't have a limit or threshold. You have a threshold, you have a limit. You even have two limits: the outer circle, the inner circle, or what comes down to the same thing, the greatest distance from one circle to the other, or the least distance. You have a maximum and a minimum. And he says: consider the sum, here the Latin text is very important, the sum of the inequalities of distance. You see: you trace all the lines, all the segments which go from one circle to the other. You evidently have an infinity. Spinoza tells us: consider the sum of the inequalities of distance. You understand: he doesn't literally tell us to consider the sum of the unequal distances, that is of the segments which go from one circle to the other. He tells us: the sum of the inequalities of distance, that is the sum of the differences. And he says: „it is very curious, this infinity here. We will see what he means, but I mention this text for the moment because I have a specific idea, he tells us: „it is very curious, it is an infinite sum. The sum of the inequalities of distance is infinite. He could also have said that the unequal distances is an infinite sum. And yet there is a limit. There is a limit since you have the limit of the big circle and the limit of the small circle. So there is something infinite and yet it is not unlimited. And he says that it is an odd infinity, it is a very particular geometrical infinity: it is an infinity that you can say is infinite even though it is not unlimited. And indeed, the space encompassed between the two circles is not unlimited, the encompassed space between the two circles is perfectly limited. I take up exactly the expression of the letter to Meyer: the sum of the inequalities of distance‚, even though he could have made the same reasoning by taking holding of the simpler case: the sum of unequal distances. Why does he want to sum up the differences?

For me it is truly a text which is important, because, what does he have in his head that he doesn’t say? He needs it by virtue of his problem of essences. Essences are degrees of power, but what is a degree of power? A degree of power is a difference between a maximum and a minimum. It is in this way that it is an intensive quantity. A degree of power is a difference in itself.

(End of tape.)

How to become reasonable?
Like many thinkers of his time, he is one of the philosophers who have said most profoundly: you know, you are born neither reasonable, nor free, nor intelligent. If you become reasonable, if you become free, etc., it is a matter of a becoming. But there is no author who is more indifferent, for example, to the problem of freedom as belonging to the nature of man. He thinks that nothing at all belongs to the nature of man. He is an author who thinks everything, really, in terms of Becoming. So then, good, okay, without doubt. What does this mean, becoming reasonable? What does it means, becoming free, once it is said that we are not? We are not born free, we are not born reasonable. We are completely at the mercy of encounters, that is: we are completely at the mercy of decompositions. And you must understand that this is normal in Spinoza; the authors who think that we are free by nature are the ones who make of nature a certain idea. I believe we can only say: we are free by nature if we don't conceive it as a substance, that is as a relatively independent thing. If you conceive yourself as a collection of relations, and not at all as a substance, the proposition I am free‚ is plainly deprived of sense. It is not at all that I am for the opposite: it makes no sense, freedom or no freedom. On the other hand, perhaps the question has a sense: How to become free?‚ Similarly to be reasonable‚ can be understood if I am defined as a reasonable animal‚, from the point of view of substance, this is the Aristotelian definition which implies that I am a substance. If I am a collection of relations, perhaps they are rational relations, but to say that this is reasonable, is plainly deprived of all sense. So if reasonable, free, etc., make any sense it could only be the result of a becoming. Already this is very new. To be thrown into the world is precisely to risk at every instant encountering something which decomposes me.

Hence I said: there is a first aspect of reason. The first effort of reason, I believe, is very curious in Spinoza, it is a kind of extraordinarily groping effort. And there you can’t say that it is insufficient because it encounters concrete gropings. It is all a kind of apprenticeship in order to evaluate or have signs, I did say signs, to organize or to find signs that tell me a little of which relations agree with me and which relations don't agree with me. It is necessary to try, it is necessary to experiment. And my own experience, I can not even transmit it because perhaps it doesn't agree with another’s. That is, it is like a kind of groping so that each discovers at the same time what he likes and what he supports. Good, it is a little like this that we live when we take medication: it is necessary to find their doses, their things, it is necessary to make selections, and the prescription of the doctor will not be sufficient. It will come in handy. There is something which goes beyond a simple science, or a simple application of science. It is necessary to find your thing, it is like an apprenticeship in music, finding at the same time what agrees with you, what you are capable of doing. This is already what Spinoza will call, and it will be the first aspect of reason, a kind of double aspect, selecting-composing. To select, selection-composition, is to manage to find by experience those relations with which mine compose, and drawing from them the consequences. That is: at any cost flee as best as I can ˜ I can’t totally, I can’t completely ˜ but flee as much, to the maximum, the encounter with relations which don’t agree with me, and compose to the maximum, be composed to the maximum with the relations which agree with me. Here again is the first determination of freedom or of reason. So Rousseau‚s theme, what he himself called the materialism of the wise‚, you remember when I spoke a little of this idea of Rousseau‚s, very very curious, a kind of art of composing situations, this art of composing situations that consists above all of withdrawing from situations which don't agree with you, of entering into situations which agree with you, etc.. This is the first effort of reason. But I insist overall: at this level, we have no previous knowledge, we have no preexisting knowledge, we don't have scientific knowledge. It is not about science. It is really about living experimentation. It is about apprenticeship: I never stop deceiving myself, I never stop running into situations which don't agree with me, I never stop etc., etc.

And little by little is sketched out a kind of beginning of wisdom, which brings us back to what? Which brings us back to what Spinoza says from the beginning: but the fact that each knew a little, had a vague idea of what he is capable of, once it‚s said that the incapable people are not incapable people, it is people who rush to what they are not capable of, and who drop what they are capable of. But, Spinoza asks: What can a body do?‚ It doesn't mean: what a body in general can do, it means: yours, mine. Of what are you capable? It is this kind of experimentation with capacity. To try to experiment with capacity, and at the same time to construct it, at the same time that one experiments with it, is very concrete. Yet we don't have prior knowledge (savoir). Good, I don't know what, there are domains [] of what am I capable? Who can say, in the two senses, there are people who are too modest who say: „I am not capable of it because I would not succeed, and then there are the people too sure of themselves, who say: „Ha that, such a nasty thing, I am not capable of it, but they would perhaps do it, we don't know. No one knows what he is capable of.

What am I capable of?
I think that one of the things, in the beautiful era of existentialism, there was as it was all the same very much connected to the end of the war, to the concentration camps etc. There was a theme that Jaspers had launched, and which was a theme, it seems to me, which was very profound: he distinguished two types of situation, limit situations and simple everyday situations. He said: limit situations could befall us at any time, they are precisely situations which we can’t anticipate. What do you want: someone who was not tortured what does that mean? He has no idea if he will hold out or if he won't hold out. If need be, the most courageous types collapse, and the types that one would have thought, in that way, pathetic, they hold out marvelously. One doesn't know. The limit situation is really a situation such as this, I learn at the last moment, sometimes too late, what I was capable of. What I was capable of for better or worse. But we can’t say in advance. It is too easy to say: Oh that, me, I would never do it! And inversely, we ourselves pass our time doing things like that, but what we are really capable of, we pass right by. So many people die without knowing and will never know what they were capable of. Once again: in atrocity as in the very good. It is the surprises, it is necessary to surprise oneself. We tell ourselves: Oh look! I would never have believed that I would have done it. People, you know, they are quite artful. Generally we always speak of the manner ˜ it is very complicated for Spinozism because we always speak of the manner in which people destroy themselves, but I believe that, finally, it is often so for discourse too. It is sad, it is always a very sad spectacle, and then it is annoying! They also have a kind of prudence: the cunning of people! the cunning of people is odd, because there are a lot of people who destroyed themselves over points which, precisely, they themselves have no need of. Then evidently they are losers, you understand, yeah, I suppose someone who, at the limit, renders himself impotent, but it is someone who doesn't really have the desire to do it, it is not their thing. In other words it is a very secondary relation for them. To budge is a very secondary relation. Good. He manages to put himself in states where he can no longer budge, in a certain way he has what he wanted since he set on a secondary relation. It is very different when someone destroys himself in what he himself experiences as being his principal constituent relations. If running doesn't interest you a lot, you can always smoke a lot, hey. We will say to you: You destroy yourself, then very well. I myself would be satisfied to be on a small chair, on the contrary it would be better like this, I would have peace! Very well. So, I destroy myself? No, not so. Obviously I destroy myself because if I can no longer budge at all, in the end I risk dying of it, in the end I would have the boredom of another nature that I would not have foreseen. Oh yes, it is annoying. But you see, even in things where there is self-destruction, there are tricks which imply a whole calculus of relations. One can very well destroy oneself over a point which is not essential for the person himself, and try to keep the essential, all this is complex. It is complex. You are sly, you don't know to what extent you are all sly, everyone. There you go.

I would call reason, or effort of reason, conatus of reason, effort of reason, this tendency to select, to learn the relations, this apprenticeship of the relations which are composed or which are not composed. Now I wouldn‚t mind saying: as you have no previous science, you understand what Spinoza means: science, you are perhaps going to arrive at a science of relations. But what will it be? Funny science. It won't be a theoretical science. The theory will perhaps be a part, but it will be a science in the sense of vital science.

The sign is the equivocal expression: I manage as best I can. And the signs are what? It is the signs of language which are fundamentally ambiguous, according to Spinoza, they are on one hand the signs of language, and on the other hand the signs of God, prophetic signs, and on the other hand the signs of society: rewards, punishments, etc. Prophetic signs, social signs, linguistic signs, are the three great types of signs. Now each time it is the language of equivocity. We are forced to set out from there, to pass by there, in order to construct our apprenticeship, that is in order to select our joys, eliminate our sadness, that is to make headway in a kind of apprehension of the relations which are composed, to arrive at an approximate knowledge (connaissance) by signs of the relations which agree with me and of the relations which don't agree with me. So the first effort of reason, you see, exactly, it is to do everything in my power (pouvoir) in order to increase my power (puissance) of acting, that is in order to experience passive joys, in order to experience of the joys of passion. The joys of passion are what increase my power of acting according to still equivocal signs in which I don't possess this power (puissance). Do you see? Very well. The question which I have come to is: supposing that it is like this, that there is this moment of long apprenticeship, how can I pass, how can this long apprenticeship lead me to a more sure stage, where I am more sure of myself, that is where I become reasonable, where I become free. How can this be done?

We will see next time.






In order to analyse the different dimensions of individuality, I have tried to develop this theme of the presence of the infinite [lâinfini] in the philosophy of the seventeenth century, and the form under which this infinite presented itself. This theme is very fuzzy [flou] and I would like to draw from it some themes concerning the nature, this conception of the individual, this infinitist conception of the individual. Spinoza provides a perfect expression, as if he pushed those themes that were scattered among other authors of the seventeenth century to the end. In all its dimensions, the individual as Spinoza presents it, I would like to say three things about it. On the one hand, it is relation, on the other hand, it is power [puissance], and finally it is mode. But a very particular mode. A mode that one could call intrinsic mode.
The individual insofar as relation refers us to a whole plane that can be designated by the name of composition [compositio]. All individuals being relations, there is a composition of individuals among themselves, and individuation is inseparable from this movement of composition.
Second point, the individual is power [puissance ö potentiae]. This is the second great concept of individuality. No longer composition that refers to relations, but potentiae. We find the modus intrinsecus quite often in the Middle Ages, in certain traditions, under the name gradus. This is degree. The intrinsic mode or degree.
There is something common to these three themes: it's by virtue of this that the individual is not substance. If it's a relation it's not substance because substance concerns a term and not a relation. The substance is terminus, which is a term. If it's power it's not substance either because, fundamentally, whatever is substance is form. It's the form that is called substantial. And lastly, if it's degree it's not substance either since every degree refers to a quality that it graduates, every degree is degree of a quality. Now what determines a substance is a quality, but the degree of a quality is not substance.
You see that all this revolves around the same intuition of the individual as not being substance. I begin with the first character. The individual is relation. This is perhaps the first time in the history of the individual that an attempt to think relation in the pure state will be sketched out. But what does that mean, relation in the pure state? Is it possible, in some way, to think relation independently of its terms? What does a relation independent of its terms mean? There had already been a rather strong attempt in Nicholas of Cusa. In many of his texts that I find very beautiful, there was an idea that will be taken up again later. It seems to me that in his work it appeared in a fundamental way, that is, every relation is measure, only if every measure, every relation, plunges into the infinite. He dealt often with the measure of weight, with weighing, insofar as the relative measure of two weights refers to an absolute measure, and the absolute measure, itself, always brings the infinite into play. This is the theme that there is an immanence of pure relation and the infinite. One understands by "pure relation" the relation separate from its terms. Thus it's for this reason that it's so difficult to think pure relation independently of its terms. It's not because it's impossible, but because it puts into play a mutual immanence of the infinite and relation.
The intellect has often been defined as the faculty of setting out relations. Precisely in intellectual activity there is a kind of infinite that is implied [impliqué]. At the level of relation the implication of the infinite occurs through intellectual activity. What does that mean? Doubtless it will be necessary to wait until the seventeenth century to find a first statute of relation independent of its terms. This is what many philosophers, including those who made use of mathematical means, had sought since the Renaissance.
This will be brought to a first perfection thanks to the infinitesimal calculus. The infinitesimal calculus puts into play a certain type of relation. Which one? The method of exhaustion was like a kind of prefiguration of the infinitesimal calculus. The relation to which infinitesimal calculus gave a solid statute is what is called a differential relation, and a differential relation is of the type dy/dx =, we'll see what it's equal to.
How does one define this relation dy/dx = ? That which is called dy is an infinitely small quantity, or what is called a vanishing [évanouissante] quantity. A quantity smaller than any given or givable quantity. Whatever quantity of y you are given, dy will be smaller than this value. Thus I can say that dy as a vanishing quantity is strictly equal to zero in relation to y. In the same way dx is strictly equal to zero in relation to x. dx is the vanishing quantity of x. Thus I can write, and mathematicians do write dy/dx = 0/0. This is the differential relation. If I call y a quantity of the abscissa and x a quantity of the ordinate, I would say that dy=0 in relation to the abscissa, dx=0 in relation to the ordinate. Is dy/dx equal to zero? Obviously not. dy is nothing in relation to y, dx is nothing in relation to x, but dy over dx does not cancel out. The relation subsists and the differential relation will present itself as the subsistence of the relation when the terms vanish. They have found the mathematical convention that allows them to treat relations independently of their terms. Now what is this mathematical convention? I summarize. It's the infinitely small. Pure relation thus necessarily implies the infinite under the form of the infinitely small since pure relation will be the differential relation between infinitely small quantities. It's at the level of the differential relation that the reciprocal immanence of the infinite and relation is expressed in the pure state. dy/dx = 0/0 but 0/0 is not 0.
Indeed, what subsists when y and x cancel out under the form dy and dx, what subsists is the relation dy/dx itself, which is not nothing.
Now what does this relation dy/dx designate?
To what is it equal?
We will say that dy/dx equals z, that is to say it does not involve y or x at all, since it's y and x under the form of vanishing quantities. When you have a relation dy/dx derived from a circle, this relation dy/dx = 0/0 doesn't involve the circle at all but refers to what is called a trigonometric tangent.
One comprehends that dy/dx = z, that is to say the relation that is independent of its terms will designate a third term and will serve in the measurement and in the determination of a third term: the trigonometric tangent. In this sense I can say that the infinite relation, that is to say the relation between the infinitely small, refers to something finite. The mutual immanence of the infinite and relation is in the finite. Its in the finite itself that there is immanence of relation and the infinitely small. In order to gather together these three terms, pure relation, the infinite and the finite, I would say that the differential relation dy/dx tends towards a limit, and this limit is z, that is to say the determination of the trigonometric tangent. We are inside an extraordinarily rich knot of notions. Then afterward the mathematicians will say no, it's barbaric to interpret infinitesimal calculus by the infinitely small, it's not that. Perhaps they're right from a certain point of view, but this is to pose the problem badly. The fact is that the seventeenth century, by way of its interpretation of infinitesimal calculus, finds a means of fusing three key concepts, for mathematics and philosophy at the same time. These three key concepts are the concepts of the infinite, relation and limit. Thus if I extract a formula of the infinite from the seventeenth century, I would say that something finite consists of an infinity [infinité] under a certain relation. This formula can appear totally dull: something finite consists in the infinite under a certain relation, when in fact it is extraordinarily original. It marks an equilibrium point, for seventeenth-century thought, between the infinite and the finite, by way of a new theory of relations. And then when these later sorts consider it as going without saying that in the least finite dimension there is the infinite; when thereafter they speak of the existence of God all the time but this is much more interesting than is believed it doesn't finally involve God, it involves the richness of this implication of concepts: relation, infinite, limit.
How is the individual a relation? You will find, at the level of the individual, a limit. This does not prevent there having been some infinite, this does not prevent there being relations and these relations being composed, the relations of one individual are composed with another; and there is always a limit that marks the finitude of the individual, and there is always an infinite of a certain order that is involved by the relation.
It's a funny vision of the world. They didn't merely think like that, they saw like that. It was their very own taste, their way of treating things. When they see what microscopes show them, they see a confirmation of it: the microscope is the instrument that gives us a sensible and confused presentiment of this activity of the infinite under any finite relation. And Pascal's text on the infinite, he was a great mathematician as well, but when he needs to let us know how he sees the world, he doesn't need his mathematical knowledge [savoir] at all, the two reinforce each other. Then Pascal can make up his text on the two infinites without any reference to mathematics whatsoever. He says extremely simple but extremely original things. And indeed, the originality lies in this way of fusing three concepts: relation, limit, infinite. This makes a funny world. We no longer think like that. What has changed is a whole system of mathematics as conventions, but that has changed only if you comprehend that modern mathematics also plots its concepts on a set of notions of another, equally original type. [Following a remark] The limit towards which the relation tends is the reason for knowing [connâitre] the relation as independent of its terms, that is to say dx and dy, and the infinite, the infinitely small is the reason for being [raison dâêtre] of relation; indeed, it's the reason for being of dy/dx.
Descartes' formula: the infinite conceived and not comprehended. One does not comprehend the infinite because it is incomprehensible, but one conceives it. This is Descartes' great formula: one can conceive it clearly and distinctly, but comprehending it is something else. Thus one conceives it, there is a reason for knowledge [connaissance] of the infinite. There is a reason for knowing that is distinct from the reason for being. Comprehending would be grasping the reason for being, but we cannot grasp the reason for being of the infinite because to do so we would have to be adequate to God; but our understanding is merely finite. On the other hand, one can conceive the infinite, conceive it clearly and distinctly, thus one has a reason for knowing it.
Practical exercises in philosophy would have to be thought experiments [expériences]. This is a German notion: experiments that one can only do in thought.
Let's pass on to the second point. I've had to invoke the notion of limit. Indeed, in order to account for the immanence of the infinite in relation, I return to the preceding point. The logic of relations [rapports], of relationships [relations] is a fundamental thing for philosophy, and alas, French philosophy has never been very interested in this aspect. But the logic of relations has been one of the great creations of the English and the Americans. But there were two stages. The first stage is Anglo-Saxon, the logic of relations such as it was built up on the basis of Russell at the end of the nineteenth century; now this logic of relations claims to be founded on this: the independence of relation in relation to its terms, but this independence, this autonomy of relation in relation to its terms is founded on finite considerations. They are founded on a finitism. Russell even has an atomist period in order to develop his logic of relations.
This stage had been prepared by a very different stage. The great classical stage of the theory of relations is not like they say; they say that earlier, people confused the logic of relations and the logic of attribution. They confused two types of judgment: judgments of relation (Pierre is smaller than Paul) and judgments of attribution (Pierre is yellow or white), thus they had no consciousness of relations. It's not like that at all. In so-called classical thought, there is a fundamental realization of the independence of relation in relation to relationships, only this realization passes by way of the infinite. The thought of relation as pure relation can only be made in reference to the infinite. This is one of the highly original moments of the seventeenth century.
I return to my second theme: the individual is power [puissance]. The individual is not form, it is power. Why does this follow? It's what I just said about the differential relation 0/0, which is not equal to zero but tends towards a limit.
When you say that, the tension towards a limit, you rediscover this whole idea of the tendency in the seventeenth century in Spinoza at the level of a Spinozist concept, that of conatus. Each thing tends to persevere in its being. Each thing strives [sâefforce]. In Latin, "strive" is "conor," the effort or tendency, the conatus. The limit is being defined according to an effort, and power is the same tendency or the same effort insofar as it tends towards a limit. If the limit is grasped on the basis of the notion of power, namely tending towards a limit, in terms of the most rudimentary infinitesimal calculus, the polygon that multiplies its sides tends towards a limit, which is the curved line. The limit is precisely the moment when the angular line, by dint of multiplying its sides, tends towards infinity [lâinfini]. It's the tension towards a limit that now implies the infinite. The polygon, as it multiplies its sides to infinity, tends towards the circle.
What change does this bring about in the notion of limit?
The limit was a well-known notion. One did not speak of tending towards a limit. The limit is a key philosophical concept. There is a veritable mutation in the manner of thinking a concept. What was limit? In Greek it's "peras." At the simplest level, the limit is the outlines [contours]. Itâs the time limits [termes]. Surveyors [Géomètres]. The limit is a term, a volume has surfaces for its limits. For example, a cube is limited by six squares. A line segment is limited by two endpoints. Plato has a theory of the limit in the Timeus: the figures and their outlines. And why can this conception of the limit as outline be considered as the basis for what one could call a certain form of idealism? The limit is the outline of the form, whether the form is purely thought or sensible, in any case one will call "limit" the outline of the form, and this is very easily reconciled with an idealism because if the limit is the outline of the form, after all what I can do is what there is between the limits. If I were to put some sand, some bronze or some thought matter, some intelligible matter, between my limits, this will always be a cube or a circle. In other words, essence is the form itself related to its outline. I could speak of the pure circle because there is a pure outline of the circle. I could speak of a pure cube without specifying what it involves. I would name these the idea of the circle, the idea of the cube. Hence the importance of "peras"-outline in Platoâs philosophy in which the idea will be the form related to its intelligible outline.
In other words, in the idea of an outline-limit, Greek philosophy finds a fundamental confirmation for its own proper abstraction. Not that it is more abstract than another philosophy, but it sees the justification of the abstractio, such as it conceives it, namely the abstraction of ideas.
Henceforth the individual will be the form related to its outline. If I look for something to which such a conception concretely applies, I would say, regarding painting for example, that the form related to its outline is a tactile-optical world. The optical form is related, be it only by the eye, to a tactile outline. Then that can be the finger of pure spirit, the outline inevitably has a kind of tactile reference, and if one speaks of the circle or the cube as a pure idea, to the extent that one defines it by its outline and one relates the intelligible form to its outline, there is a reference however indirect it may be to a tactile determination. It is completely wrong to define the Greek world as the world of light, it's an optical world, but not at all a pure optical world. The word that the Greeks use to speak of the "idea" already sufficiently attests to the optical world that they promote: Eidos. Eidos is a term that refers to visuality, to the visible. The sight of spirit, but this sight of spirit is not purely optical. It is optical-tactile. Why? Because the visible form is related, however indirectly it may be, to the tactile outline. It's not surprising that one of those who reacts against Platonic idealism, in the name of a certain technological inspiration, is Aristotle. But if you consider Aristotle, there the tactile reference of the Greek optical world appears quite evidently in an extremely simple theory which consists in saying that substance, or rather sensible substances are composites of form and matter, and it's the form that's essential. And the form is related to its outline, and the experience constantly invoked by Aristotle is that of the sculptor. Statuary has the greatest importance in this optical world; it's an optical world, but a world of sculpture, that is to say one in which the form is determined according to a tactile outline. Everything happens as if the visible form were unthinkable outside of a tactile mold. That is the Greek equilibrium. It's the Greek tactilo-optical equilibrium.
The eidos is grasped by the soul. The eidos, the pure idea is obviously graspable only by the pure soul. As pure soul we can only speak of it, according to Plato himself, by analogy, seeing that we only experiment with our soul insofar as it is bound to a body, we can only speak of it by analogy. Thus, from the point of view of analogy, I would always have said okay, itâs the pure soul that grasps the pure idea. Nothing corporeal. It's a purely intellectual or spiritual grasp. But does this pure soul that grasps the idea proceed in the manner of an eye, in the manner of, or does it proceed rather in the manner of the sense of touch? Touch which would then be purely spiritual, like the eye which would be purely spiritual. This eye is the third eye. This would be a manner of speaking, but we definitely need the analogy. In Plato we definitely need analogical reasoning. Then all my remarks consist in saying that the pure soul no more has an eye than it has a sense of touch, it is in relation with the ideas. But this does not prevent the philosopher, in order to speak of this apprehension of the idea by the soul, from having to ask himself what is the role of an analogon of the eye and an analogon of touch? An analogue of the eye and an analogue of touch in the grasping of the idea. There are then these two analoga since the idea is constantly•[gap in recording] This was the first conception of the outline-limit. But what happens when, several centuries later, one gets a completely different conception of the limit, and the most varied signs come to us from it?
First example, from the Stoics. They lay into Plato quite violently. The Stoics are not the Greeks, they are at the edge [pourtour] of the Greek world. And this Greek world has changed a lot. There had been the problem of how to develop the Greek world, then Alexander. These Stoics are attacking Plato, there is a new Oriental current. The Stoics tell us that we don't need Plato and his ideas, it's an indefensible conception. The outline of something is what? It's non-being, say the Stoics. The outline of something is the spot where the thing ceases to be. The outline of the square is not at all the spot where the square ends. You see that it's very strong as an objection. They take literally this Platonism that Iâve sketched out quite summarily, namely that the intelligible form is the form related to a spiritual touch [tact], that is to say it's the figure related to the outline. They will say, like Aristotle, that the example of the sculptor is completely artificial. Nature never proceeds by molding. These examples are not relevant, they say. In what cases does nature proceed by way of molds, it would be necessary to count them, itâs certainly only in superficial phenomena that nature proceeds by way of molds. These are phenomena that are called superficial precisely because they affect surfaces, but nature, in depth [profondeur], does not proceed by way of molds. I am pleased to have a child who resembles me; I have not sent out a mold. Notice that biologists, until the eighteenth century, cling to the idea of the mold. They insisted on the spermatozoon analogous to a mold, this is not reasonable. On that point Buffon had great ideas; he said that if one wants to comprehend something of the production of living things, it would be necessary to work oneâs way up to the idea of an internal mold. Buffonâs concept of an "internal mold" could help us. It means what? It's awkward because one could just as well speak of a massive surface. He says that the internal mold is a contradictory concept. There are cases in which one is obliged to think by means of a contradictory concept. The mold, by definition, is external. One does not mold the interior, which is to say that for the living thing, the theme of the mold already does not work. Nevertheless there is a limit to the living thing. The Stoics are in the process of getting hold of something very strong, life does not proceed by molding. Aristotle took artificial examples. And on Plato they let loose even more: the idea of the square, as if it were unimportant that the square was made of wood, or of marble, or of whatever you like. But this matters a lot. When one defines a figure by its outlines, the Stoics say, at that very moment everything that happens inside is no longer important. It's because of this, the Stoics say, that Plato was able to abstract the pure idea. They denounce a kind of sleight-of-hand [tour de passe-passe]. And what the Stoics are saying stops being simple: they are in the process of making themselves a totally different image of the limit. What is their example, opposed to the optical-tactile figure? They will oppose problems of vitality. Where does action stop? At the outline. But that, that holds no interest. The question is not at all where does a form stop, because this is already an abstract and artificial question. The true question is: where does an action stop?
Does everything have an outline? Bateson, who is a genius, has written a short text that is called "[why] does everything have an outline?" Take the expression "outside the subject," that is to say "beyond the subject." Does that mean that the subject has an outline? Perhaps. Otherwise what does "outside the limits" mean? At first sight it has a spatial air. But is it the same space? Do "outside the limits" and "outside the outline" belong to the same space? Does the conversation or my course today have an outline? My reply is yes. One can touch it. Let's return to the Stoics. Their favorite example is: how far does the action of a seed go? A sunflower seed lost in a wall is capable of blowing out that wall. A thing with so small an outline. How far does the sunflower seed go, does that mean how far does its surface go? No, the surface is where the seed ends. In their theory of the utterance [énoncé], they will say that it states exactly what the seed is not. That is to say where the seed is no longer, but about what the seed is it tells us nothing. They will say of Plato that, with his theory of ideas, he tells us very well what things are not, but he tells us nothing about what things are. The Stoics cry out triumphantly: things are bodies.
Bodies and not ideas. Things are bodies, that meant that things are actions. The limit of something is the limit of its action and not the outline of its figure. Even simpler example: you are walking in a dense forest, you're afraid. At last you succeed and little by little the forest thins out, you are pleased. You reach a spot and you say, "whew, here's the edge." The edge of the forest is a limit. Does this mean that the forest is defined by its outline? It's a limit of what? Is it a limit to the form of the forest? It's a limit to the action of the forest, that is to say that the forest that had so much power arrives at the limit of its power, it can no longer lie over the terrain, it thins out.
The thing that shows that this is not an outline is the fact that we can't even specify the precise moment at which there is no more forest. There was a tendency, and this time the limit is not separable, a kind of tension towards the limit. It's a dynamic limit that is opposed to an outline limit. The thing has no other limit than the limit of its power [puissance] or its action. The thing is thus power and not form. The forest is not defined by a form, it is defined by a power: power to make the trees continue up to the moment at which it can no longer do so. The only question that I have to ask of the forest is: what is your power? That is to say, how far will you go?
That is what the Stoics discover and what authorizes them to say: everything is a body. When they say that everything is a body, they don't mean that everything is a sensible thing, because they do not emerge from the Platonic point of view. If they were to define the sensible thing by form and outline, that would hold no interest. When they say that everything is a body, for example a circle does not extend in space in the same fashion if it is made of wood as it does if it is made of marble. Further, "everything is a body" will signify that a red circle and a blue circle do not extend in space in the same fashion. Thus it's tension.
When they say that all things are bodies, they mean that all things are defined by tonos, the contracted effort that defines the thing. The kind of contraction, the embryonic force that is in the thing, if you don't find it, you don't know [connaissez] the thing. What Spinoza takes up again with the expression "what can a body do?"
Other examples. After the Stoics, at the beginning of Christianity a quite extraordinary type of philosophy developes: the Neo-Platonic school. The prefix "neo" is particularly well founded. Itâs in applying themselves to some extremely important Platonic texts that the Neo-Platonists will completely decenter all of Platonism. So much so that, in a certain sense, one could say that all of it was already in Plato. Only it was as though taken into a set that was not Platoâs. The Enneads have been inherited from Plotinus. Skim through Ennead four, book five. You will see a kind of prodigious course on light. A prodigious text in which Plotinus will try to show that light can be comprehended neither as a function of the emitting body nor as a function of the receiving body. His problem is that light makes up a part of these odd things that, for Plotinus, are going to be the true ideal things. One can no longer say that it begins there and ends there. Where does light begin? Where does light end?
Why couldn't one say the same thing three centuries earlier? Why did this appear in the so-called Alexandrine world? It's a manifesto for a pure optical world. Light has no tactile limit, and nevertheless there is certainly a limit. But this is not a limit such that I could say it begins there and it ends there. I couldn't say that. In other words, light goes as far as its power goes. Plotinus is hostile to the Stoics, he calls himself a Platonist. But he had a premonition of the kind of reversal [retournement] of Platonism that he is in the process of making. It's with Plotinus that a pure optical world begins in philosophy. Idealities will no longer be only optical. They will be luminous, without any tactile reference. Henceforth the limit is of a completely different nature. Light scours the shadows. Does shadow form part of light? Yes, it forms a part of light and you will have a light-shadow gradation that will develop space. They are in the process of finding that deeper than space there is spatialization. Plato didn't know [savait] of that. If you read Plato's texts on light, like the end of book six of the Republic, and set it next to Plotinus 's texts, you see that several centuries had to pass between one text and the other. These nuances are necessary. It's no longer the same world. You know [savez] it for certain before knowing why, that the manner in which Plotinus extracts the texts from Plato develops for himself a theme of pure light. This could not be so in Plato. Once again, Plato's world was not an optical world but a tactile-optical world. The discovery of a pure light, of the sufficiency of light to constitute a world implies that, beneath space, one has discovered spatialization. This is not a Platonic idea, not even in the Timeus. Space grasped as the product of an expansion, that is to say that space is second in relation to expansion and not first. Space is the result of an expansion, that is an idea that, for a classical Greek, would be incomprehensible. Itâs an idea that comes from the Orient. That light could be spatializing: it's not light that is in space, it's light that constitutes space. This is not a Greek idea. Several centuries later a tremendously important art form, Byzantine art, burst forth. It's a problem for art critics to figure out how Byzantine art remains linked to classical Greek art while at the same time, from another point of view, it breaks completely with classical Greek art. If I take the best critic in this regard, Riegl, he says something rigorous, in Greek art you have the priority of the foreground [avant-plan]. The difference between Greek art and Egyptian art is that in Greek art the distinction is made between the foreground and the background [arrière-plan], while in Egyptian art, broadly speaking, the two are on the same plane [plan]. The bas-relief. I summarize quite briefly. Greek art is the Greek temple, it's the advent of the cube. For the Egyptians it was the pyramid, plane surfaces. Wherever you set yourself you are always on a plane surface. It's diabolical because it's a way of hiding the volume. They put the volume in a little cube which is the funerary chamber, and they set up plane surfaces, isosceles triangles, to hide the cube. The Egyptians are ashamed of the cube. The cube is the enemy, the black, the obscure, it's the tactile. The Greeks invent the cube. They make cubical temples, that is to say they move the foreground and the background forward. But, Riegl says, there is a priority of the foreground, and the priority of the foreground is linked to the form because it's the form that has the outline. It's for this reason that he will define the Greek world as a tactile-optical world. With the Byzantines it's quite odd. They nestle [nichent] the mosaics, they move them back. There is no depth in Byzantine art, and for a very simple reason, it's that depth is between the image and me. All of Byzantine depth is the space between the spectator and the mosaic. If you suppress this space it's as if you were to look at a painting outside of every condition of perception, it's unbearable.
The Byzantines mount an enormous forced takeover. They privilege the background, and the whole figure will arise from the background. The whole image will arise from the background. But at that very moment, as if by chance, the formula of the figure or the image is no longer form-outline. Form-outline was for Greek sculpture. And nevertheless there is a limit, there are even outlines, but this is not what acts, the work no longer acts that way, contrarily to Greek statuary in which the outline captures the light. For Byzantine mosaic it's light-color, that is to say that what defines, what marks the limits is no longer form-outline but rather the couple light-color, that is to say that the figure goes on as far as the light that it captures or emits goes, and as far as the color of which it's composed goes.
The effect on the spectator is prodigious, namely that a black eye goes exactly as far as this black shines. Hence the expression of these figures whose faces are consumed by the eyes. In other words there is no longer an outline of the figure, there is an expansion of light-color. The figure will go as far as it acts by light and by color. It's the reversal [renversement] of the Greek world. The Greeks wouldn't have known [su] how or wouldn't have wanted to proceed to this liberation of light and color. With Byzantine art color and light are liberated in relation to space because what they discover is that light and color are spatializing. Thus art must not be an art of space, it must be an art of the spatialization of space. Between Byzantine art and Plotinus slightly earlier texts on light there is an obvious resonance. What is affirmed is the same conception of the limit.
There is an outline-limit and there is a tension-limit. There is a space-limit and there is a spatialization-limit.






Confrontation with Gueroult's commentary.

This week and next week I will be speaking again of Spinoza, and then that‚s it. Unless you have questions to pose, which I would like very much.
Ok then: my dream is that it is very clear for you, this conception of individuality, such that we‚ve tried to bring it out in the philosophy of Spinoza, because, finally, it seems to me that this is one of the newest elements of Spinozism. It is this manner in which the individual, as such, is going to be conveyed, related, reported in Being. And in order to try to make you understand this conception of individuality which seems to me so new in Spinoza, I will always return to the theme: it is as if an individual, whatever individual, had three layers, as if it was composed, then, of three layers. We have advanced, at least into the first dimension, into the first layer of the individual, and I say: oh yes, all individuals have an infinity of extensive parts. This is the first point: an infinity of extensive parts. In other words, there are only individuals that are composite. A simple individual, I believe that, for Spinoza, it is a notion lacking in sense.
Every individual, as such, is composed of an infinity of parts.
I‚ll try to summarize very quickly: What does this mean this idea that the individual is composed of an infinity of parts? What are these parts? Once again, they are what Spinoza calls Œthe simplest bodies‚: all bodies are composed of an infinity of very simple bodies. But what are these: Œvery simple bodies‚? We have arrived at a precise enough status: they are not atoms, meaning finite bodies, and neither are they indefinites. What are they? And there Spinoza belongs to the 17th century. Once again, what really strikes me, in regard to the thought of the 17th century, is the impossibility of grasping this thought if we don‚t take into account one of the richest notions of this era, a notion which is simultaneously metaphysical, physical, mathematical, etc: the notion of the Œactual infinite‚. Now the actual infinite is neither finite nor indefinite. The finite signifies, above all, it refers to, if I seek the formula of the finite, it is: there is a moment where you have to stop yourself. That is to say: when you analyse something there will always be a moment where it will be necessary to stop yourself. Let‚s say, and for a long time, this moment of the finite, this fundamental moment of the finite which marks the necessity of finite terms, it is all of this which inspired atomism since Epicurus, since Lucretius: the analysis encounters a limit, this limit is the atom. The atom is subject to a finite analysis. The indefinite is as far as you can go, you can‚t stop yourself. That is to say: as far as you can take the analysis, the term at which you arrive will always be, in turn, divided and analysed. There will never be a last term.
The point of view of the actual infinite, it seems to me, of which we have completely lost the sense, and we have lost this sense for a thousand reasons, I suppose, among others for scientific reasons, all this ? But what matters to me, is not why we have lost this sense, it is as if I have happened to be able to reconstruct for you the way in which these thinkers thought. Really, it is fundamental in their thinking. Once again, if I consider that Pascal wrote texts that are representative of the 17th Century, these are essentially texts on man in relation to the infinite. These are people who truly thought naturally, philosophically, in terms of the actual infinite. Now this idea of an actual infinite, that is to say neither finite nor indefinite, what does that tell us? What it tells us is that: there are last terms, there are ultimate terms ˜ you see, this is contrary to the indefinite, it is not the indefinite since there are ultimate terms, only these ultimate terms are ad infinitum. Therefore, they are not the atom. They are neither finite nor indefinite. The infinite is actual, the infinite is in action. In effect, the indefinite is, if you like, infinite, but virtual, that is to say: you can always go further. This is not it; it (the actual infinite) tells us: there are last terms: Œthe simplest bodies‚ for Spinoza. These are the ultimate terms, these are the terms which are last, which you can no longer divide. But, these terms are infinitely small. They are the infinitely small, and this is the actual infinite. Note that it is a struggle on two fronts: simultaneously against finitism and against the indefinite. What does this mean? There are ultimate terms, but these are not atoms since they are the infinitely small, or as Newton will say, they are vanishings, vanishing terms. In other words, smaller than any given quantity. What does this imply? Infinitely small terms; you can‚t treat them one by one. This too is a non-sense: to speak of an infinitely small term that I would consider singularly, that makes no sense. The infinitely small, they can only go by way of infinite collections. Therefore there are infinite collections of the infinitely small. The simple bodies of Spinoza don‚t exist one by one. They exist collectively and not distributively. They exist by way of infinite sets. And I cannot speak of a simple body, I can only speak of an infinite set of simple bodies. Such that an individual is not a simple body, an individual, whatever it is, and however small it is, an individual has an infinity of simple bodies, an individual has an infinite collection of the infinitely small.
That is why, despite all the force of Gueroult‚s commentary on Spinoza, I cannot understand how Gueroult poses the question of knowing if simple bodies for Spinoza shouldn‚t have shape and magnitude ? It is obvious that if simple bodies are infinitely small, that is to say, "vanishing‰ quantities, they have neither shape nor magnitude. An atom, yes, has a shape and a magnitude: it is smaller than any given magnitude. What then has shape and magnitude? What has shape and magnitude, here, the response is very simple, what has shape and magnitude is a collection, it is a collection itself infinite of the infinitely small. This yes, the infinite collection of the infintely small has shape and magnitude. However, we come up against this problem: yes, but where does it come from, this shape and this magnitude? I mean: if the simple bodies are all infinitely small, what permits us to distinguish such an infinite collection of the infinitely small from another such infinite collection of the infinitely small? From the point of view of the actual infinite, how can we make distinctions in the actual infinite? Or even: Is there only one collection? One collection of all the possible infinitely smalls? Now Spinoza is very firm here! He says: to each individual corresponds an infinite collection of very simple bodies, each individual is composed of an infinity of very simple bodies. It is necessary therefore that I have the means of recognising the collection of the infinitely small that corresponds to such an individual, and that which corresponds to another such individual. How is that to be done? Before arriving at this question, let‚s try to see how these infinitely small are. They enter therefore into infinite collections, and I believe that here the 17th century grasped something that mathematics, with completely different means, with a completely different procedure˜ I don‚t want to make arbitrary connections ˜ but that modern mathematics rediscovered with a completely different procedure, that is to say: a theory of infinite sets. The infinitely small enter into infinite sets and these infinite sets are not the same. That is to say: there is a distinction between infinite sets. Regardless of whether it was Leibniz, or Spinoza, the second half of the 17th century is riddled with this idea of the actual infinite, the actual infinite which consists of these infinite sets of the infinitely small.
But then these vanishing terms, these infinitely small terms, what are their ? How are they? I would like this to take on a slightly more concrete shape. It is obvious that they don‚t have interiority. I‚ll try first to say what they are not, before saying what they are. They have no interiority, they enter into infinite sets, the infinite set could have an interiority. But these extreme terms, infinitely small, vanishing, they have no interiority, they are going to constitute what? They are going to constitute a veritable matter of exteriority. The simple bodies have only strictly extrinsic relations, relations of exteriority with each other. They form a species of matter, using Spinoza‚s terminology: a modal matter, a modal matter of pure exteriority, which is to say: they react on one another, they have no interiority, they have only external relations with one another. However, I‚ll return to my question: if they have only external relations, what allows us to distinguish one infinite set from another? Once again, all individuals, each individual, here I can say each individual since the individual isn‚t the very simple body, each individual, distributively, has an infinite set of infinitely small parts. These parts are actually given. But what distinguishes my infinite set, the infinite set that refers to me, and the set that refers to a neighbour? Hence, and already we are entering the second layer of individuality, which leads us to ask: under what aspect does an infinite set of very simple bodies belong to either this or that individual? Under what aspect?
It is understood, I have an infinite eset of infinitely small parts, but under what aspect does that infinite set belong to me? Under what aspect does an infinite set of very simple bodies belong to either this or that individual. It is understood that I have an infinite set of infinitely small parts, but under what aspect does that infinite set belong to me?
You see that I have only with difficulty transformed the question because when I ask under what aspect the infinite set belongs to me, it is another way of asking what allows me to distinguish such an infinite set from another such infinite set. Once again, at first sight, in the infinite everything must be confused, it must be the black night or the white light. What makes it so that I can distinguish infinities from one another? Under what aspect is an infinite set said to belong to me or to someone else?
Spinoza‚s response seems to be: an infinite set of infinitely small parts belongs to me, and not to someone else, insofar as this infinite set puts into effect [effectue] a certain relation. It is always under a relation that the parts belong to me. To the point that, if the parts which compose me take on another relation, at that very moment, they no longer belong to me. They belong to another individuality, they belong to another body. Hence the question: what is this relation? Under what relation can the infinitely small elements be said to belong to something? If I answer the question, I truly have the answer that I‚m looking for. I will show how, according to which condition, an infinite set can be said to belong to a finite individuality. Under what relation of the infinitely small can they belong to a finite individuality? Good. Spinoza‚s answer, if I stick to the letter of Spinoza, is: under a certain relation of movement and rest. But we‚re already there, relation of movement and rest, we know that it doesn‚t at all mean ˜ and here we would be wrong to read the text too quickly ˜ it doesn‚t at all mean, as in Descartes, a sum (which we have seen: the relation of movement and rest, this cannot be the Cartesian formula ? = mv, mass-velocity). No, he didn‚t say "relation‰. What defines the individual, is therefore a relation of movement and rest because it is under this relation that an infinity of infinitely small parts belong to the individual. However, what is this relation of movement and rest that Spinoza invokes in such a way?
Here, I recommence a confrontation with Gueroult‚s commentary. Gueroult makes an extremely interesting hypothesis, but here too I don‚t understand; I don‚t understand why he makes this hypothesis here, but it is very interesting. He says: finally the relations of movement and rest is vibration. At the same time it is a response that appears to me to be very curious. The answer must be very precise: it is a vibration! What does that mean? That would mean that what defines the individual, at the level of the second layer, that is to say the relation under which the parts belong to it, is a way of vibrating. Each individual ? Well, that would be good, that would be very concrete, what would define you, me, is that we would have a kind espèce of way of vibrating. Why not? Why not ? what does that mean? Either it is a metaphor, or else it means something. A vibration returns us to what, physics? It returns to something simpler, to a well known phenomenon which is that of the pendulum. Well, Gueroult‚s hypothesis seems to take on a sense that‚s very interesting because physics, in the 17th century, had considerably advanced the study of rotating bodies and pendulums, and notably had established a distinction between simple pendulums and compound pendulums. Well then good ? at this moment then you see that the Gueroult hypothesis becomes this: each simple body is a simple pendulum, and the individual, which has an infinity of simple bodies, is a compound pendulum. We would all be compound pendulums. That‚s very good! Or turning discs. It is an interesting conception of each of us. What does it mean? In effect, a simple pendulum is defined by what? It is defined, if you vaguely recall memories of physics, but very simple physics, it is defined in a certain way by a time, a time of vibration or a time of oscillation. For those who remember, there is the famous formula: t = py root of 1 over g [ ]? Yes, I think so. "t‰ is the duration of oscillation, "l‰ is the length of the thread on which the pendulum is suspended, "g‰ is what, in the 17th century, is called the intensity of gravity, it‚s of little significance ? Good. What is important is that in the formula, see that a simple pendulum has a time of oscillation which is independent of the amplitude of oscillation of the shaft of the pendulum, therefore completely independent of the amplitude of oscillation, independent of the mass of the pendulum ˜ this responds well to the situation of an infinitely small body, and independent of the weight of the thread. Weight of the thread, mass of the pendulum, only enter into play from the point of view of the compound pendulum. Therefore it seems that, in many respects, the Gueroult hypothesis works. Individuals for Spinoza would be kinds of compound pendulums, each composed of an infinity of simple pendulums. And what defines an individual is a vibration. Good.
Well then I say with a lot of freedom, like that, I am developing this for those who are very technically interested in Spinoza, as for the others you can retain what you want ? At the same time it is curious because, at the same time this hypothesis draws my attention, and I can‚t well see why. There is one thing which disturbs me: it is that it is true that all of the history of pendulums and of rotating discs, in the 17th century, is very encouraging; but precisely, if it had been this that Spinoza had wanted to say, why did he make no allusion to these problems of vibration, even in his letters? And then, above all, the model of the pendulum does not give a full account of what appears to me the essential, that is to say: this presence of the actual infinite and the term "infinitely small‰.
You see Gueroult‚s answer, insofar as he comments on Spinoza: the relation of movement and rest must be understood as the vibration of the simple pendulum. There you are! I am not at all saying that I am right, truly not ? I mean: if it is true that the very simple bodies ˜ this is why elsewhere Gueroult needs to affirm that the very simple bodies have nevertheless, for Spinoza, a shape and a magnitude. Suppose on the contrary ˜ but I am not at all saying that I am right˜ suppose that the very simple bodies were really infinitely small, that is to say that they have neither shape nor magnitude. At that moment then the model of the simple pendulum cannot work, and it cannot be a vibration that defines the relation of movement and rest.
On the other hand, we have another way, and then you can perhaps find others ˜ surely you can find others. The other way would be this: once again I return to my question, between supposedly infinitely small terms, what type of relations can they have? The response is very simple: between infinitely small terms, if we understand what is meant in the 17th century by the infinitely small, that is: which have no distributive existence, but which necessarily enter into an infinite collection, between infinitely small terms, there can only be one type of relation: differential relations.
Why? Infinitely small terms are vanishing terms, that is to say, the only relations which they can have between the infinitely small terms are relations which subsist while the terms vanish. A very simple question is: what are relations such that they subsist while their terms vanish? Let‚s do here some very very simple mathematics. I view , if I remain there in the 17th century and in a certain state of mathematics, and what I am saying is very rudimentary, I view as well known in the 17th century three types of relation. There are fractional relations which have been known for a very very long time; there are algebraic relations which are known ˜ which were anticipated well before, that goes without saying ˜ but which received a very firm status, in the 16th and 17th century ˜ in the 17th century with Descartes, that is in the first half of the 17th century, with algebraic relations; and finally differential relations, which at the moment of Spinoza and Leibniz, are the big question of mathematics of this era. I‚ll give some examples: I want it to be clear for you, even if it is not mathematics that I‚m doing, not at all. Example of a fractional relation: 2/3. Example of an algebraic relation: ax+by = etc. From which you can get x/y =. Example of a differential relation, we have seen: dy/dx = z. Good. What difference is there between these three types of relation? I would say that the fractional relation is already very interesting because otherwise we could make like a scale: the fractional relation is irreducibly a relation. Why?
If I say 2/3, 2/3, once again it is not a number. Why is it that 2/3 is not a number, it is because there isn‚t a number assignable which multiplied by 3 gives 2. Therefore it is not a number. A fraction is not a number, it is a complex of numbers, which I decide, by convention, to treat as a number; that‚s to say that I decide by convention to submit to the rules of addition, of subtraction, of multiplication. But a fraction is obviously not a number. Once I have found the fraction, I can treat numbers like fractions, that‚s to say: once I employ fractional symbolism, I can treat a number, for example the number 2, as a fraction. I can always write 4 over 2. 4 over 2 = 2. But the fractions, in their irreducibility to whole numbers, don‚t have numbers, but are complexes of whole numbers. Good. Therefore already the fraction brings forward a sort of independence of the relation in relation to its terms.
In this very important question of a logic of relations, the point of departure of a logic of relations is obvious: in what sense is there a consistency of the relation independent of its terms? The fractional number already gives me a kind of first approximation, but that doesn‚t allow us to avoid the fact that in the fractional relation, the terms must again be specified. The terms must be specified, that‚s to say that you could always write 2 over 3, but the relation is between two terms: 2 and 3. It is irreducible to these terms since it is itself not a number but a complex of numbers; but the terms must be specified, the terms must be given. In a fraction, the relation is as independent of its terms, Yes! But the terms must be given.
One step further. When I take an algebraic relation of the type x over y, this time I don‚t have given terms, I have two variables. I have variables. You See that everything happens as if the relation had acquired a superior degree of independence in relation to its terms. I no longer need to assign a determinate value. In a fractional relation I cannot escape this: I must assign a determinate value to the terms of the relation. In an algebraic relation I no longer need to assign a determinate value to the terms of the relation. The terms of the relation are variable. But that doesn‚t allow me to avoid the fact that it is again necessary that my variables have a determinable value. In other words, x and y can have all sorts of singular values, but they must have one. See, in the fractional relation, I can only have a singular value, or equivalent singular values. In an algebraic relation I no longer have to have a singular value, but that doesn‚t allow me to avoid the fact that my terms continue to have a specifiable value, and the relation is quite independent of every particular value of the variable, but it is not independent of a determinable value of the variable.
What is very new with the differential relation is that it takes something like a third step. When I say dy over dx, remember what we saw: dy in relation to y = 0; it is an infinitely small quantity. Dx in relation to x equals zero; therefore I can write, and they wrote constantly in the 17th century, in this form: dy over dx = 0 over 0: dy/dx=0/0. Now, the relation 0 over 0 is not equal to zero. In other words, when the terms vanish, when the terms vanish, the relation subsists. This time, the terms between which the relation is established are neither determined, nor determinable. Only the relation between its terms is determined. It is here that logic is going to make a leap, but a fundamental leap. Under this form of the differential calculus is discovered a domain where the relations no longer depend on their terms: the terms are reduced to vanishing terms, to vanishing quantities, and the relation between these vanishing quantities is not equal to zero. To the point where I would write, here I‚ll do it very summarily: dy over dx equals z: dy/dx = z. What does this mean "= z‰? It means, of course, that the differential relation dy over dx [dy/dx], which is made between vanishing quantities of Œy‚ and vanishing quantities of Œx‚, tells us strictly nothing about Œx‚ and Œy‚, but tells us something about Œz‚. For example, as applied to a circle, the differential relation dy over dx tells us something about a tangent called the "trigonometric tangent‰. In order to keep it simple, there is no need to understand anything, I can therefore write dy/dx = z. What does this mean then? See that the relation such as it subsists when its terms vanish is going to refer to a third term, Œz‚. It is interesting; this must have been very interesting: it is from here that a logic of relations is possible. What does this mean then? We will say of Œz‚ that it is the limit of the differential relation. In other words, the differential relation tends towards a limit. When the terms of the relation vanish, Œx‚ and Œy‚, and become dy and dx, when the terms of the relation vanish, the relation subsists because it tends towards a limit, Œz‚. When the relation is established between infinitely small terms, it does not cancel itself out at the same time as its terms, but tends towards a limit. This is the basis of differential calculus such as it is understood or interpreted in the 17th century.
Now you obviously understand why this interpretation of the differential calculus is at one with the understanding of an actual infinite, meaning with the idea of infinitely small quantities of vanishing terms.
Now, me, my answer to the question: but what is it exactly, this that Spinoza speaks to us of when he speaks of the relations of movement and rest, of proportions of movement and rest, and says: the infinitely small, a collection of the infinitely small belonging to such an individual under such a relation of movement and rest, what is this relation? I would not be able to say like Gueroult that it is a vibration which assimilates the individual to a pendulum: it is a differential relation. It is a differential relation such that it is manifested in the infinite sets, in the infinite sets of the infinitely small. And, in effect, if you take Spinoza‚s letter on blood, of which I have made great use, and the two components of blood, chyle and lymph, this now tells us what? It tells us that there are corpuscles of chyle, or better chyle is an infinite set of very simple bodies. Lymph is another infinite set of the very simple bodies. What distinguishes the two infinite sets? It is the differential relation! You have this time a dy/dx which is: the infinitely small parts of chyle over the infinitely small parts of lymph, and this differential relation tends towards a limit: the blood, that is to say: chyle and lymph compose blood.
If this is right, we could say why infinite ensembles are distinguished. It is because the infinite sets of very simple bodies don‚t exist independently of the differential relations which they put into effect. Therefore it is by abstraction that I began by speaking of them. But they necessarily exist, they exist necessarily under such and such a variable relation, they cannot exist independently of a relation, since the notion even of the term infinitely small, or of vanishing quantity, cannot be defined independently of a differential relation. Once again, Œdx‚ has no sense in relation to Œx‚, Œdy‚ has no sense in relation to Œy‚, only the relation dx/dy has a sense. That‚s to say that the infinitely small don‚t exist independently of the differential relation. Good. Now, what permits me to distinguish one infinite set from another infinite set? I would say that the infinite sets have different powers [puissances], and that which appears quite obviously in this thought of the actual infinite is the idea of the power [puissance] of an set. Let‚s understand here that I don‚t at all mean, it would be abominable to make me mean that they have anticipated things which closely concern set theory in the mathematics of the beginning of the 20th century, I don‚t mean that at all. I mean that in their conception, which is in absolute contrast with modern mathematics, which is completely different, which has nothing to do with modern mathematics, in their conception of the infinitely small and of the differential calculus interpreted from the perspective of the infinitely small, they necessarily brought out ˜ and this is not peculiar to Leibniz, it is also true of Spinoza, and of Malebranche, all these philosophers of the second half of the 17th century ˜ brought out the idea of infinite sets which are distinguished, not by their numbers, an infinite set by definition, it can not be distinguished from another infinite set by the number of its parts, since all infinite sets excede all assignable number of parts ˜ therefore, from the point of view of the number of parts, there cannot be one which has a greater number of parts than another. All these sets are infinite. Therefore under what aspect are they distinguished? Why is it that I can say: this infinite set and not that one?
I can say it, it is quite simple: because infinite sets are defined as infinite under such and such a differential relation. Between other terms the differential relations can be considered as the power [puissance] of an infinite set. Because of this an infinite set will be able to be of a higher power [puissance] than another infinite set. It‚s not that it will have more parts, obviously not, but it is that the differential relation under which the infinity, the infinite set of parts, belongs to it will be of higher power [puissance] than the relation under which an infinite set belongs to another individual ? [end of tape]
If we eliminate that, any idea of an actual infinite makes no sense. It is for this reason that, with the reservations that I‚ve just mentioned, for my part, the answer that I would give to: what is this relation of movement and rest that is for Spinoza characteristic of the individual, that is as the second layer of the individual, I would say that, no, it is not exactly a way of vibrating, perhaps we could bring together the two points of view, I don‚t know, but it is differential relation, and it is the differential relation that defines power [puissance]. Now, you understand the situation, yes? ˜ you recall that the infinitely small are constantly influenced from the outside, they pass their time by being in relation with other collections of the infinitely small. Suppose that an infinite collection of the infinitely small is determined from the outside to take another relation than the one under which it belongs to me. What does this mean? It means that: I die! I die! In effect, the infinite set which belongs to me under such a relation which characterises me, under my characteristic relation, this infinite set will take another relation under the influence of external causes. Take again the example of poison which decomposes the blood: under the action of arsenic, the infinitely small particles which compose the blood, which compose my blood under such a relation, are going to be determined to enter under another relation. Because of this, this infinite set is going to enter in the composition of another body, it will no longer be mine: I die! Do you understand? Good. If all of this is true, if it is true ? we are still missing something, because this relation, it comes from where, this relation? You can see that I‚ve progressed, but it is necessary for me to have my three layers. I cannot pull through in any other way. I need my three layers because I can‚t otherwise pull through. I start by saying: I am composed of an infinity of vanishing and infinitely small parts. Good. But be careful, these parts belong to me, they compose me under a certain relation which characterises me. But this relation which characterises me, this differential relation or better, this summation, not an addition but this kind of integration of differential relations, since in fact there are an infinity of differential relations which compose me: my blood, my bones, my flesh, all this refers to all sorts of systems of differential relations. These differential relations that compose me, that is to say which determine that the infinite collections which compose me belong effectively to me, and not to another, insofar as it endures, since it always risks no longer enduring, if my parts are determined to enter under other relations, they desert my relation. Ha! ? they desert my relation. Once again: I die! But that is going to involve lots of things.
What does it mean to die, at that very moment? It means that I no longer have parts. It‚s stupefying! Good. But this relation which characterises me, and which determines that the parts which put into effect the relation belong to me as soon as they put into effect the relation, insofar as they put into effect the differential relation, they belong to me, this differential relation, is this the last word on the individual? Obviously not, it is necessary to give an account of it in its turn. What is it going to express, it depends on what? What does it do that ? it doesn‚t have its own reason, this differential relation. What does it do that, me, I am characterised by such a relation or such an set of relations?
Last layer of the individual, Spinoza‚s answer: it is that the characteristic relations which constitute me, that is to say which determine that the infinite sets which verify these relations, which put into effect these relations which belong to me, the characteristic relations express something. They express something which is my singular essence. Here Spinoza says this very firmly: the relations of movement and rest serve only to express a singular essence. That means that none of us have the same relations, of course, but it isn‚t the relation that has the last word. It‚s what? Couldn‚t we here return to something of Gueroult‚s hypothesis? Last question: there is therefore a last layer of the individual, that is to say that the individual is a singular essence. You can now see what formula I can give to the individual: each individual is a singular essence, each singular essence expresses itself in the characteristic relations of the differential relation type, and under these differential relations, the infinite collections of the infinitely small belong to the individual.
Hence a last question: what is it, this singular essence? Couldn‚t we find here, at this level ˜ though it would be necessary to say that Gueroult, in all rigour, is mistaken about this level ˜ at this level something equivalent to the idea of vibration? What is a singular essence? Be careful that you have understood the question, it is almost necessary to consent to press the conditions of such a question. I am no longer in the domain of existence. What is it, existence? What does it mean, to me, to exist? We will see that it is just as complicated in Spinoza, because he gives a very rigorous determination to what he calls existing. But if we start with the most simple, I would say: to exist is to have an infinity of extensive parts, of extrinsic parts, to have an infinity of infinitely small extrinsic parts, which belong to me under a certain relation. Insofar as I have, in effect, extensive parts which belong to me under a certain relation, infinitely small parts which belong to me, I can say: I exist.
When I die, once again, then it is necessary to work out the Spinozist concepts, when I die what happens? To die means, exactly this, it means: the parts which belong to me cease to belong to me. Why? We have seen that they only belong to me insofar as they put into effect a relation, relation which characterises me. I die when these parts which belong to me or which belonged to me are determined to enter under another relation which characterises another body: I would feed worms! "I would feed worms‰, which means: the parts of which I am composed enter under another relation ˜ I am eaten by worms. My corpuscles, mine, which pass under the relation of the worms. Good! That could happen ? Or better, the corpuscles of which I am composed, precisely, they put into effect another relation, conforming to the relation of arsenic: I have been poisoned! Good. Do you see that in one sense it is very serious, but it is not that serious, for Spinoza. Because, in the end, I can say that death ? concerns what? We can say in advance, before knowing what it is that he calls an essence, death concerns essentially a fundamental dimension of the individual, but a single dimension, that is the relationship of the parts to an essence. But it concerns neither the relation under which the parts belong to me, nor the essence. Why?
You‚ve seen that the characteristic relation, the differential relation, or the differential relations which characterise me, they are independent in themselves, they are independent of the terms since the terms are infinitely small, and that the relation, itself, on the contrary, has a finite value: dy/dx = z. Then it is actually true that my relation or my relations cease to be put into effect when I die, there are no longer parts which effect. Why? Because the parts have been set up to put into effect other relations. Good. But firstly there is an eternal truth of the relation, in other words there is a consistency of the relation even when it is not put into effect by actual parts, there is an actuality of the relation, even when it ceases to be put into effect. That which disappears with death is the effectuation of the relation, it is not the relation itself. You say to me: what is a non-effectuated relation? I call upon this logic of the relation such as it seems to be born in the 17th century, that is to say it has effectively shown in what conditions a relation had a consistency while its terms were vanishing. There is a truth of the relation independent of the terms which put the relation into effect, and on the other hand there is a reality of the essence that is expressed in the relation, there is a reality of the essence independent of knowing if the actually given parts putting the relation into effect conform with the essence. In other words both the relation and the essence are said to be eternal, or at least to have a species of eternity ˜ a species [espèce] of eternity doesn‚t at all mean a metaphoric eternity ˜ it is a very precise type of eternity, that is to say that: the species of eternity in Spinoza has always signified what is eternal by virtue of its cause and not by virtue of itself ˜ therefore the singular essence and the characteristic relations in which this essence expresses itself are eternal, while what is transitory, and what defines my existence, is uniquely the time during which the infinitely small extensive parts belong to me, that is to say put the relation into effect. But then there you are, this is why it is necessary to say that my essence exists when I don‚t exist, or when I no longer exist. In other words there is an existence of the essence which is not confused with the existence of the individual whose essence is the essence in question. There is an existence of the singular essence which is not confused with the existence of the individual whose essence is the essence in question. It is very important because you see where Spinoza is heading, and his whole system is founded on it: it is a system in which everything that is is real. Never, never has such a negation of the category of possibility been carried so far. Essences are not possibilities. There is nothing possible, everything that is is real. In other words essences don‚t define possibililties of existence, essences are themselves existences.
Here he goes much further than the others of the 17th century ˜ here I‚m thinking of Leibniz. With Leibniz, you have an idea according to which essences are logical possibilities. For example, there is an essence of Adam, there is an essence of Peter, there is an essence of Paul, and they are possibles. As long as Peter, Paul, etc. don‚t exist, we can only define the essence as a possible, as something which is possible. Simply, Leibniz will be forced, henceforth, to give an account of this: how can the possible account for, integrate in itself the possibility of existing, as if it would be necessary to burden the category of the possible with a kind [espèce] of tendency to existence. And, in effect, Leibniz develops a very very curious theory, with a word that is common to both Leibniz and Spinoza, the word conatus, tendency, but which actually has two absolutely different senses in Spinoza and Leibniz. With Leibniz singular essences are simply possibles, they are special possibles since they tend with all their force to exist. It is necessary to introduce into the logical category of possibility a tendency to existence.
Spinoza, I‚m not saying that it is better ˜ it‚s your choice ˜ it is truly a characteristic of the thought of Spinoza, for him, it is the same notion of the possible: he doesn‚t want to enrich the notion of the possible by grafting it to a tendency to existence. What he wants is the radical destruction of the category of the possible. There is only the real. In other words, essence isn‚t a logical possibility, essence is a physical reality. It is a physical reality, what can that mean? In other words, the essence of Paul, once Paul is dead, remains a physical reality. It is a real being. Therefore it would be necessary to distinguish them as two real beings: the being of the existence and the being of the essence of Paul. What‚s more, it would be necessary to distinguish as two existences: the existence of Paul and the existence of the essence of Paul. The existence of the essence of Paul is eternal, while the existence of Paul is transitory, mortal, etc. You see, from the point where we‚re at, if this is it, a very important theme of Spinoza is: but what is it going to be, this physical reality of the essence? Essences can‚t be logical possibilities, if they were logical possibilities they would be nothing: they must be physical realities. But be careful, these physical realities are not confused with the physical reality of the existence. What is the physical reality of the existence? Spinoza finds himself in the grip of a problem which is very very complicated, but so much the better. I want this all to be clear, I don‚t know how to do it.
Spinoza tells us, I‚ll tell you shortly when and where he tells us this, in a very fine text, he tells us: imagine a white wall. A totally white wall. There is nothing on it. Then you arrive with a pencil, you draw a man, and then next to it you do another. There your two men exist. They exist insofar as what? They exist insofar as you‚ve traced them. Two figures exist on the white wall. You can call these two figures Peter and Paul. So long as nothing is traced on the white wall, does something exist which would be distinct from the white wall? Spinoza‚s response very curiously is: ŒNo, strictly speaking nothing exists!‚ On the white wall, nothing exists so long as the figures haven‚t been traced. You‚re telling me that this isn‚t complicated. It isn‚t complicated. It is a fine example because I will have need of it for the next time. As for now, all I will do is comment on Spinoza‚s text. Now, where can this text be found? This text can be found in the early work of Spinoza, a work which was not written by him, but is the notes of an auditor, and is known by the title the Short Treatise. The Short Treatise. You see why this example is important. The white wall is something equivalent to what Spinoza calls the attribute. The attribute, extension. The question was asked: but what is there in extension? In extension there is extension, the white wall equals a white wall, extension equals extension! But you could say: bodies exist in extension. Yes, bodies exist in extension. OK. What is the existence of bodies in extension? The existence of bodies in extension is effectively when these bodies are traced. What does that mean, effectively traced? We have seen this answer, Spinoza‚s very strict answer, it is when an infinity of infinitely small parts are determined to belong to a body. The body is traced. It has a shape. What Spinoza will call mode of the attribute is such a shape. Therefore the bodies are in extension exactly like figures traced on the white wall, and I can distinguish one figure from another figure, by saying precisely: which parts belong to which shape, pay attention, such another part, it can have there common fringes, but what can this do? This means that there will be a common relation between the two bodies, yes, this is possible, but I would distinguish existing bodies. Outside of that, can I distinguish something? One finds that the text of the Short Treatise, of Spinoza‚s youth, seems to say: ultimately it is impossible to distinguish something outside of existing modes, outside of shapes. If you haven‚t traced the shape, you cannot distinguish something on the white wall. The white wall is uniformly white. Excuse me for dwelling on this, it is really because it is an essential moment in Spinoza‚s thought. Nevertheless, already in the Short Treatise he says: the essences are singular, that is to say there is an essence of Peter and of Paul which is not confused with the existence of Peter and Paul. Now, if essences are singular, it is necessary to distinguish something on the white wall without the shapes necessarily having been traced. What‚s more, if I leap to his definitive work, the Ethics, I see that in Part II, Proposition 7, 8, etc., Spinoza comes across this problem again. He says, very bizarrely: modes exist in the attribute in two ways; on the one hand they exist insofar as they are comprised and contained in the attribute; and, on the other, insofar as it is said that they have duration. Two existences: durational existence, immanent existence. Here I take the letter of the text. Modes exist in two ways, that is to say that: existing modes exist insofar as they are said to have duration, and the essences of modes exist insofar as they are contained in the attribute. Good! This is complicated because modal essences are once again, and here it is confirmed by all the texts of the Ethics, they are singular essences, meaning that one isn‚t confused with the essence of another, the one isn‚t confused with the other, good, very well. But then, how are they distinguished in the attribute, one from the other. Spinoza affirms that they are distinguished, and then here he abandons us! Does he really abandon us, it is not possible! A thing like this is not imaginable! He doesn‚t tells us, OK. He gives an example, he gives us a geometric example, precisely, which comes down to saying: does a shape have a certain mode of existence when it isn‚t traced? Does a shape exist in extension when it isn‚t traced in extension? The whole text seems to say: yes, and the whole text seems to say: complete this yourselves. And this is normal, perhaps he has given us all the elements of an answer. To complete it ourselves. It is necessary, we have no choice! Either we renounce being Spinozist ˜ that wouldn‚t be bad either ˜ or it is necessary to complete it yourself. How could we complete this ourselves? This is why I pleaded as I said at the beginning of the year, we plead with ourselves, on the one hand, with the heart, and, on the other, with that which we know. The white wall! Why does he speak of the white wall? What is this story of the white wall?
After all, examples in philosophy are also a bit like a wink of the eye. You tell me: well what do we do if we don‚t understand the wink of an eye? It‚s not serious, not serious at all! We pass by a million things. Let‚s make do with what we have, let‚s make do with what we know. White wall. But after all I‚m trying to complete it with all my heart before completing it with knowledge. Let‚s call on our hearts. I take on one side my white wall, on the other side my drawings on the white wall. I have drawn on the wall. And my question is this: can I distinguish on the white wall things independently of the shapes drawn, can I make distinctions which are not distinctions between shapes?
Here it is like a practical exercise, there is no need to know anything. Simply, I say: you are reading Spinoza well if you arrive at this problem or at an equivalent problem. It is necessary to read him literally enough in order for you to say: ah yes, this is the problem that he poses us, and the job for him is to pose the problem so precisely that ˜ it is even a present that he gives us in his infinite generosity ˜ is to pose the problem so well, he poses the problem for us so precisely that obviously, we tell ourselves, the answer is this, and we will have the impression of having found the answer. It is only the great authors who give you this impression. They stop just when all is finished, but no, there is a tiny bit that they haven‚t mentioned. We are forced to find it and we say to ourselves: I am good aren‚t I, I am strong aren‚t I, I found it, because at the moment when I come to pose the question like this: can something be distinguished on the white wall independently of the drawn shapes? It is obvious that I have the answer already. And that we respond in chorus, we respond: Of course, there is another mode of distinction which is what? It is that the white has degrees! And I can vary the degrees of whiteness. One degree of whiteness is distinguished from another degree of whiteness in a totally different way than that by which a shape on the white wall is distinguished from another shape on the white wall. In other words, the white has, one says in Latin ˜ we use all the languages in order to try to better understand the languages that we don‚t know, what! (laughs) ˜ the white has distinctions of gradus. There are degrees, and the degrees are not confused with the shapes. You say: such a degree of white, in the sense of such a degree of light. A degree of light, a degree of whiteness, is not a shape. And even though two degrees are distinguished, two degrees aren‚t distinguished like shapes in space. I would say that shapes are distinguished externally, taking account of their common parts. I would say of degrees that it is a completely different type of distinction, that there is an intrinsic distinction. What is this?
Accordingly I no longer need ? It is an accident. Each operates with what they know. I tell myself: ha, it is not at all surprising that Spinoza ? What is the wink of the eye from the point of view of knowledge? We started with our heart by saying: yes, it can only be that: there is a distinction of degrees which is not confused with the distinction of figures. The light has degrees, and the distinction of degrees of light is not confused with the distinction of shapes in the light. You tell me that all of this is infantile; but it is not infantile when we try to make them philosophical concepts. Yes it‚s infantile, and it isn‚t. That‚s good. Well then, what is this story, there are intrinsic distinctions! Good, let‚s try to progress, from the point of view of terminology. It is necessary to make a terminological grouping.
My white wall, the white of the white wall, I will call: Œquality‚. The determination of shapes on the white wall I will call: Œmagnitude, or length‚. ˜ I will say why I use the apparently bizarre word magnitude [grandeur]. Magnitude, or length, or extensive quantity. Extensive quantity is in effect the quantity which is composed of parts. Recall the existing mode, existing me, is defined precisely by the infinity of parts which belong to me. What else is there besides quality, the white, and extensive quantity, magnitude or length, there are degrees. There are degrees which are what, which we call in general: intensive quantities, and which are in fact just as different from quality as from extensive quantity. These are degrees or intensities.
Now there is a philosopher of the Middle Ages, one of great genius, here I appeal to a very small bit of knowledge, he is called Duns Scotus. He appeals to the white wall. It is the same example. Did Spinoza read Duns Scotus? [This is] of no interest, because I am not sure at all that it is Duns Scotus who invented this example! It is an example which can be found throughout the Middle Ages, in a whole group of theories of the Middle Ages. The white wall. Yes! ... He said: quality, the white, has an infinity of intrinsic modes. He wrote in Latin: modus intrinsecus. And Duns Scotus here innovated, invented a theory of intrinsic modes. A quality has an infinity of intrinsic modes. Intrinsic modes, what are they, and he says: the white has an infinity of intrinsic modes, these are the intensities of white. Understand: white equals light in the example. An infinity of luminous intensities. He adds this ˜ and note that he takes responsibility because here this is new ˜ you tell me, say: there is an intensity, there is an infinity of intensities of light. Ok, not much. But what does he draw from this and why does he say this? What accounts does he settle, and with whom? This becomes important. Understand that the example is typical because when he says white, or quality, he means as well: Œform‚. In other words, we are in open discussion of the philosophy of Aristotle, and he is saying: a form has intrinsic modes. Ha! If he means: a form has intrinsic modes, it doesn‚t go without saying, not at all! Why? Because, it goes without saying that all sorts of authors, all sorts of theologians would consider that a form would be invariable in itself, and that only existing things vary in which form puts itself into effect. Duns Scotus tells us: here where the others distinguish two terms, it is necessary to distinguish three: that in which the form puts itself into effect are extrinsic modes. Therefore it is necessary to distinguish form from extrinsic modes, but there is something else. A form has also a kind [espèce] ˜ as they say in the Middle Ages ˜ a kind of latitude, a latitude of form, which has degrees, the intrinsic degrees of form. Good. These are intensities, therefore intensive quantities. What distinguishes them? How is one degree distinguished from another degree? Here, I insist on this because the theory of intensive quantities is like the conception of differential calculus of which I have spoken, it is determinant throughout the whole of the Middle Ages. What‚s more, it is related to problems of theology, there is a whole theory of intensities at the level of theology. If there is a unity of physics and metaphysics in the Middle Ages, it is very centred ˜ understand this makes the metaphysics of the Middle Ages much more interesting, there is a whole problem of the Trinity, that is to say three persons for one and the same substance, that which obstructs the mystery of the trinity. It is always said: they fight like that, they are theological questions. Not at all, they are not theological questions, it engages everything because, at the same time: they determine a physics of intensities, in the Middle Ages; they determine an elucidation of theological mysteries, the Holy Trinity; and they determine a metaphysics of forms, all of this is way beyond the specificity of theology. Under what form are the three persons of the Holy Trinity distinguished? It is obvious that there is a kind of problem of individuation that is very very important. It is necessary that the three persons are, in a way, not at all different substances, it is necessary that they are intrinsic modes. Therefore how will they be distinguished? Have we not forged ahead here into a kind of theology of intensity.
When Klossowski in his literature finds a kind of very very strange connection between theological themes of which it is said: but after all where does all of this come from, and a very Nietzschean conception of intensities, it would be necessary to see, as Klossowski is someone extremely wise, erudite, it is necessary to see what link he makes between these problems of the Middle Ages and current questions or the Nietzschean questions. It is obvious that in the Middle Ages the whole theory of intensities is simultaneously physical, theological and metaphysical. Under which form?
[end of tape ˜ very little time before the end of the course.]





This is the last time that we will speak of Spinoza. I‚m going to begin with a question that was posed to me last time: how can Spinoza say, at least in one text, that every affection, that any affection is an affection of essence?
Actually, "affection of essence," you feel that it‚s a slightly odd expression. To my knowledge it‚s the only case in which one finds this expression. Which case? A very precise text, which is a recapitulative text at the end of book three of the Ethics. Here Spinoza gives us a series of definitions hors livre. He defines or he gives again definitions which, until then, had either not been given or were scattered. He gives definitions of the affects.
You recall that the affects were a very particular kind of affection: this is what follows from that. We often translate it by the word "feeling" [sentiment]. But there is the French word "affect" which corresponds completely to the Latin word "affectus." This, strictly speaking, is what follows from the affections, the affections being perceptions or representations. But in definition one at the end of book three we read this: "Desire is man‚s very essence, insofar as it is conceived to be determined, from any given affection of it, to do something." This definition consists of quite a long explication and, if one continues, one stumbles upon a sentence that also creates something of a problem, for by affection of essence, "we understand any constitution of that essence, whether it is innate (or acquired)." In the Latin text something is missing: the reason for this parenthesis. In the Dutch translation of the Short Treatise, there is the complete sentence that we expect. Why do we expect this complement, "(or acquired)"? Because it‚s a very standard distinction in the seventeenth century between two types of ideas or affections: ideas that are called innate, and ideas that are called acquired and adventitious.
Innate-acquired is a quite standard couple in the seventeenth century but, on the other hand, the fact is that Spinoza has not used this terminology and it‚s only in this recapitulation that the resumption of the words innate and acquired appears. What is this text in which Spinoza employs terms that he hasn‚t employed up until now and in which he issues the formula "affection of essence"?
If you think about everything we‚ve said up until now, there is a problem because one asks oneself how Spinoza can say that all the affections and all the affects are affections of essence. That means that even a passion is an affection of essence.
At the close of all our analyses, we tended to conclude that what truly belongs to essence are the adequate ideas and the active affects, that is, the ideas of the second kind and the ideas of the third kind. It‚s these that truly belong to essence. But Spinoza seems to say entirely the opposite: not only are all the passions affections of essence, but even among the passions, sadnesses, the worst passions, every affect affects essence!
I would like to try to resolve this problem.
It‚s not a question of discussing one of Spinoza‚s texts, we must take it literally. It teaches us that, be that as it may, every affection is affection of essence. Thus the passions belong to essence no less than the actions; the inadequate ideas [belong] to essence no less than the adequate ideas. And nevertheless there was necessarily a difference. The passions and the inadequate ideas must not belong to essence in the same way that the actions and the adequate ideas belong to it.
How do we get out of this?
Affection of essence. What interests me is the formula "of," in Latin the genitive. In French the genitive is indicated by the particle "de." I think I recall that grammar distinguishes several senses of the genitive. There is a whole variation. When you employ the locution "de" to indicate a genitive, this always means that something belongs to someone. If I make the genitive a locution of belonging, this doesn‚t prevent the belonging from having very different senses. The genitive can indicate that something comes from someone and belongs to her insofar as it comes from someone, or it can indicate that something belongs to someone insofar as this someone undergoes the something.
In other words, the locution "de" does not choose the direction [sens] in which it is inflected, if it‚s a genitive of passion or a genitive of action.
My question is this: I have an inadequate idea, I have a confused proposition out of which comes a passion-affect. In what sense does this belong to my essence? It seems to me that the answer is this: in my natural condition I am condemned to inadequate perceptions. This means that I am composed of an infinity of extensive parts [which are] external to one another. These extensive parts belong to me under a certain relation. But these extensive parts are perpetually submitted to the influence of other parts which act upon them and which don‚t belong to me. If I consider certain parts that belong to me and that make up part of my body, let‚s say my skin; corpuscules of skin that belong to me under such relations: my skin. They are perpetually submitted to the action of other external parts: the set of what acts on my skin, particles of air, particles of sun. I‚m trying to explain at the level of a rudimentary example. The corpuscules of sun, the corpuscules of heat act on my skin. This means that they are under a certain relation that is the relation of the sun. The corpuscules of my skin are under a certain relation that is precisely characteristic of my body, but these particles that have no other law than the law of external determinations act perpetually upon one another.
I would say that the perception that I have of heat is a confused perception, and from it come affects which are themselves passions: "I‚m hot!" At the level of the proposition "I‚m hot!," if I try to distribute the Spinozist categories, I would say: an external body acts on mine. It‚s the sun. That is to say that the parts of the sun act on the parts of my body. All of that is pure external determinism, it‚s like the shocks of particles.
I call perception when I perceive the heat that I experience, the idea of the effect of the sun on my body. It‚s an inadequate perception since it‚s an idea of an effect, I do not know the cause and from it follows a passive affect; either it‚s too hot and I‚m sad, or I feel good, what happiness the sun!
In what sense is this an affection of essence?
It‚s inevitably an affection of essence. At first sight it‚s an affection of the existing body. But finally there is only essence. The existing body is still a figure of essence. The existing body is essence itself, insofar as an infinity of extensive parts, under a certain relation, belongs to it. Under a certain relation! What does that mean, this relation of movement and rest?
You recall, you have essence that is a degree of power [puissance]. To this essence corresponds a certain relation of movement and rest. As long as I exist, this relation of movement and rest is executed by the extensive parts that, from then on, belong to me under this relation.
What does that mean?
In the Ethics there is a quite curious slippage [glissement] of notions, as if Spinoza had a double vocabulary there. And this is included, this would be so only in accordance with the physics of that epoch.
He passes sometimes from a kinetic vocabulary to a dynamic vocabulary. He considers the following two concepts as equivalents: relation of movement and rest, and power [pouvoir] of being affected or aptitude to be affected. One must ask oneself why he treats this kinetic proposition and this dynamic proposition as equivalents. Why is a relation of movement and rest that characterizes me at the same time a power of being affected that belongs to me? There will be two definitions of the body. The kinetic definition will be this: every body is defined by a relation of movement and rest. The dynamic definition is: every body is defined by a certain power of being affected. You must be sensitive to the double kinetic and dynamic register.
One will find a text in which Spinoza says that "a very large number of extensive parts belongs to me. Hence I am affected in an infinity of ways." Having, under a certain relation, an infinity of extensive parts is the power of being affected in an infinity of ways. From then on everything becomes clear.
If you understood the law of extensive parts, they never cease to have causes, to be causes, and to undergo the effect of one upon the others. This is the world of causality or extrinsic, external determinism. There is always a particle that strikes another particle. In other words, you cannot think an infinite set of parts without thinking that they have at each instant an effect upon one another.
What does one call affection? One calls affection the idea of an effect. These extensive parts that belong to me, you can‚t conceive them as having no effect upon one another. They are inseparable from the effect that they have on one another. And there is never an infinite set of extensive parts that would be isolated. There is at least one set of extensive parts that is defined by this: this set belongs to me. It is defined by the relation of movement and rest under which the set belongs to me. But this set is not separable from other sets, equally infinite, that act on it, that have influence on it and which do not belong to me. The particles of my skin are obviously not separable from the particles of air that come to strike them. An affection is nothing other than the idea of the effect. The necessarily confused idea since I have no idea of the cause. It‚s the reception of the effect: I say that I perceive. It‚s thus that Spinoza can pass from the kinetic definition to the dynamic definition, that is, that the relation under which an infinity of extensive parts belongs to me is equally a power of being affected. But then what are my perceptions and my passions, my joys and my sadnesses, my affects? If I continue this sort of parallelism between the kinetic element and the dynamic element, I would say that the extensive parts belong to me insofar as they execute a certain relation of movement and rest that characterizes me. They execute a relation since they define the terms between which the relation applies [joue]. If I speak now in dynamic terms, I would say that the affections and the affects belong to me insofar as they fulfill my power of being affected and at each instant my power of being affected is fulfilled. Compare these completely different moments: instant A: you are out in the rain, you catch it yourself, you have no shelter and you are reduced to protecting your right side with your left side and vice versa. You are sensitive to the beauty of this sentence. It‚s a very kinetic formula. I am forced to make half of myself the shelter for the other side. It‚s a very beautiful formula, it‚s a verse of Dante, in one of the circles of Hell where there‚s a little rain and the bodies are lying in a sort of mud. Dante tries to translate the sort of solitude of these bodies that have no other resource than that of turning over in the mud. Every time they try to protect one side of their body with the other side. Instant B: now you open up. Just now the particles of rain were like little arrows, it was horrible, you were grotesque in your swimsuits. And the sun comes out, instant B. Then your whole body opens up. And now you would like your whole body to be capable of spreading out [étalable], you tend toward the sun. Spinoza says that we must not be fooled, that in the two cases your power of being affected is necessarily fulfilled. Plainly you always have the affections and affects that you deserve according to the circumstances, including the external circumstances; but an affection, an affect belongs to you only to the extent that it actually contributes to fulfilling your power of being affected.
It‚s in this sense that every affection and every affect is affect of essence. Ultimately the affections and the affects can only be affections and affects of essence. Why? They exist for you only as they fulfill a power of being affected which is yours, and this power of being affected is the power of being affected of your essence. At no moment do you have to miss it. When it rains and you are so unhappy, you literally lack nothing. This is Spinoza‚s great idea: you never lack anything. Your power of being affected is fulfilled in every way. In every case, nothing is ever expressed or founded in expressing itself as a lack. It‚s the formula "there is only Being." Every affection, every perception and every feeling, every passion is affection, perception and passion of essence. It‚s not by chance that philosophy constantly employs a word for which it‚s reproached, but what do you want, philosophy needs it, it‚s the sort of locution "insofar as" [en tant que]. If it were necessary to define philosophy by a word, one could say that philosophy is the art of the "insofar as." If you see someone being led by chance to say "insofar as," you can tell yourself that it‚s thought being born. The first man who thought said "insofar as." Why? "Insofar as" is the art of the concept. It‚s the concept. Is it by chance that Spinoza constantly employs the Latin equivalent of "insofar as"? The "insofar as" refers to distinctions in the concept that are not perceptible in things themselves. When you work by way of distinctions in the concept and by way of the concept, you can say: the thing insofar as, that is to say the conceptual aspect of the thing.
So then every affection is affection of essence, yes, but insofar as what? When it‚s a matter of inadequate perceptions and passions, we must add that these are affections of essence insofar as the essence has an infinity of extensive parts that belong to it under such a relation.
Here the power of being affected belongs to essence, plainly it is necessarily fulfilled by affects that come from outside. These affects come from outside, they do not come from the essence, they are nevertheless affects of essence since they fulfill the power of being affected of essence. Remember well that they come from outside, and actually the outside is the law to which the extensive parts acting upon one another are submitted.
When one succeeds in rising to the second and third kinds of knowledge, what happens? Here I have adequate perceptioions and active affects. What does that mean? It‚s the affections of essence. I would even say all the more reason. What difference from the preceding case? This time they do not come from outside, they come from inside. Why? We saw it. A common notion already, all the more reason for an idea of the third kind, an idea of essence, why does this come from inside?
Just now I said that inadequate ideas and passive affects belong to me, they belong to my essence. These are thus affections of essence insofar as this essence actually possesses an infinity of extensive parts that belong to it under a certain relation.
Let‚s now try to find the common notions. A common notion is a perception. It‚s a perception of a common relation, a relation common to me and to another body. It follows from affects, active affects. These affections, perceptions and affects are also affections of essence. They belong to essence. It‚s the same thing, but insofar as what? No longer insofar as essence is conceived as possessing an infinity of extensive parts that belong to it under a certain relation, but insofar as essence is conceived as expressing itself in a relation. Here the extensive parts and the action of the extensive parts are cast off since I am raised to the comprehension of relations that are causes, thus I am raised to another aspect of essence. It‚s no longer essence insofar as it actually possesses an infinity of extensive parts, it‚s essence insofar as it expresses itself in a relation.
And all the more reason if I am raised to ideas of the third kind, these ideas and the active affects that follow from them belong to essence and are affections of essence, this time insofar as essence is in itself [en soi], is in itself [en elle-même], in itself and for itself, is in itself [en soi] and for itself [pour soi] a degree of power [puissance]. I would say broadly that every affection and every affect are affections of essence, only there are two cases, the genitive has two senses?ideas of the second kind and [those] of the third kind are affections of essence, but it would have to be said following a word that will only appear quite a bit later in philosophy, with the Germans for example, these are auto-affections. Ultimately, throughout the common notions and the ideas of the third kind, it‚s essence that is affected by itself.
Spinoza employs the term active affect and there is no great difference between auto-affection and active affect. All the affections are affections of essence, but be careful, affection of essence does not have one and only one sense. It remains for me to draw a sort of conclusion that concerns the Ethics-Ontology relation.
Why does all this constitute an ontology? I have a feeling-idea. There has never been but a single ontology. There is only Spinoza who has managed to pull off an ontology. If one takes ontology in an extremely rigorous sense, I see only one case where a philosophy has realized itself as ontology, and that‚s Spinoza. But then why could this coup only be realized once? Why was it by Spinoza?
The power of being affected of an essence can be as well realized by external affections as by internal affections. Above all we must not think that power of being affected refers more to an interiority that did not make up the kinetic relation. The affects can be absolutely external, this is the case of the passions. The passions are affects that fulfill the power of being affected and that come from outside?book five appears to me to found this notion of auto-affection. Take a text like this one: the love by which I love God (understood in the third kind) is the love by which God loves himself and I love myself. This means that at the level of the third kind, all the essences are internal to one another and internal to the power [puissance] called divine power. There is an interiority of essences and that does not mean that they merge. One arrives at a system of intrinsic distinctions; from this point on only one essence affects me˜and this is the definition of the third kind, an essence affects my essence˜but since all essences are internal to one another, an essence that affects me is a way in which my essence affects itself. Although this is dangerous, I return to my example of the sun. What does "pantheism" mean? How do people who call themselves pantheists live? There are many Englishmen who are pantheists. I‚m thinking of Lawrence. He had a cult of the sun. Light and tuberculosis are the two points common to Lawrence and Spinoza. Lawrence tells us that, broadly speaking, there are at least two ways of being in relation to the sun. There are people on the beach, but they don‚t understand, they don‚t know what the sun is, they live badly. If they were to understand something of the sun, after all, they would come out of it more intelligent and better. But as soon as they put their clothes back on, they are as scabby [teigneux] as before. What do they make of the sun, at this level? They remain in the first kind [?] The "I" in "I like the heat" is an I that expresses relations of extensive parts of the vasoconstrictive and vasodilative type, that expresses itself directly in an external determinism putting the extensive parts in play. In that sense these are particles that act on my particles and the effect of one on the other is a pleasure or a joy. That‚s the sun of the first kind of knowledge, which I translate under the naïve formula "oh the sun, I love that." In fact, these are extrinsic mechanisms of my body that play, and the relations between parts, parts of the sun and parts of my body.
Starting when with the sun, starting when can I begin authentically to say "I"? With the second kind of knowledge, I leave behind the zone of the effect of parts on one another. I have acquired some kind of knowledge of the sun, a practical comprehension of the sun. What does this practical comprehension mean? It means that I get ahead, I know what such a miniscule event linked to the sun means, such a furtive shadow at such a moment, I know what this announces. I no longer record the effects of the sun on my body. I raise myself to a kind of practical comprehension of causes, at the same time that I know how to compose the relations of my body with such and such relation of the sun.
Let‚s take the perception of a painter. Let‚s imagine a nineteenth-century painter who goes out into nature. He has his easel, it‚s a certain relation. There is the sun that does not remain immobile. What is this knowledge of the second kind? He will completely change the position of his easel, he is not going to have the same relation to his canvas depending on whether the sun is high or the sun is about to set. Van Gogh painted on his knees. The sunsets forced him to paint almost lying down so that Van Gogh‚s eye had the lowest horizon line possible. At that moment having an easel no longer means anything. There are letters in which Cézanne speaks of the mistral: how to compose the canvas-easel relation with the relation of wind, and how to compose the relation of the easel with the sinking sun, and how to end up in such a way that I might paint on the ground, that I might paint lying on the ground. I compose relations, and in a certain way I am raised to a certain comprehension of causes, and at that very moment I can begin to say that I love the sun. I am no longer in the effect of particles of sun on my body, I am in another domain, in compositions of relation. And at this very moment I am not far from a proposition that would have appeared to us mad in the first degree, I am not far from being able to say, "the sun, I am something of it." I have a relation of affinity with the sun. This is the second kind of knowledge. Understand that, at the second level, there is a kind of communion with the sun. For Van Gogh it‚s obvious. He begins to enter into a kind of communication with the sun.
What would the third kind be? Here Lawrence abounds. In abstract terms it would be a mystical union. All kinds of religions have developed mystiques of the sun. This is a step further. Van Gogh has the impression that there is a beyond that he cannot manage to render. What is this yet further that he will not manage to render insofar as he is a painter? Is this what the metaphors of the sun in the mystics are? But these are no longer metaphors if one comprehends it like that, they can say literally that God is the sun. They can say literally that "I am God." Why? Not at all because there is an identification. It‚s that at the level of the third kind one arrives at this mode of intrinsic distinction. It‚s here that there is something irreducibly mystical in Spinoza‚s third kind of knowledge: at the same time the essences are distinct, only they distinguish themselves on the inside from one another. So much so that the rays by which the sun affects me are the rays by which I affect myself, and the rays by which I affect myself are the rays of the sun that affect me. It‚s solar auto-affection. In words this has a grotesque air, but understand that at the level of modes of life it‚s quite different. Lawrence develops these texts on this kind of identity that maintains the internal distinction between his own singular essence, the singular essence of the sun, and the essence of the world.

11 comments:

Spoonwood said...

Thanks for posting this. I've only made it about half-way through so far. The composition of relations part has the power to explain not only the value of art, technology, creativity in scholarship and science, but also the value of the axiomatic method in mathematics. This seems especially important, because of some of the nonsene people glean by the Godelian theorems (i. e. mathematical truth lies beyond that of the axiomatic method, so why use it at all?) His philosophy of value applies even to Spinoza's Ethica. In other words, of course, his axiomatic form itself reflects his own philosophy of value. No wonder artists like Goethe as well as logicians like Russell took to him.

Polaki said...

Thankyou so much for this! This series of lectures are beautiful and brilliant.

Eugene Costa said...

A brilliant and provocative lecture which one presumes you translated?

Merci.

EAC

Max Clark said...

"sadness makes no one intelligent"
"joy makes one intelligent"

Max Clark said...

"sadness makes no one intelligent"
"joy makes one intelligent"

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Unknown said...

Hi there, is this translation copyright? What if one wanted to cite it in an academic article? Do you have contact or copyright information available? thank you.

Unknown said...

Hi there, is this translation copyright? What if one wanted to cite it in an academic article? Do you have contact or copyright information available? thank you.

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ahmedT said...

Solid translation! I appreciate the original in parenthesis wherever you were unsure whether the English worked. What's good about a translation is not it's perfect fidelity, but it's ability to capture the meaning and the rhythm of the original, which your translation does rather well. I can almost hear his voice in English!

Did you listen and transcribe first or were the French transcripts available?

By the way, are you one person or several people? Well, your choosing to stay anonymous is bien Deleuzian.

On behalf of my friends and all lovers of Deleuze who can't read French, merci. Genial!

I have a blog on "applied philosophy" filasophia.com where I invite you to visit and comment.

miguel coelho said...

Very, very, very good...one can almost ear him speaking...thank you so very much!